U.S. Department of Justice
United States Attorney
Northern District of Texas
For Immediate Release
June 10, 2010
James T. Jacks, United States Attorney
Contact: Kathy Colvin
Man Admits Role in Attempted Murder-for-Hire of Brown County, Texas, Judge
LUBBOCK, Texas — U.S. Attorney James T. Jacks, of the Northern District of Texas, announced that Jeffrey Dwayne Harrison, 49, pleaded guilty today to his role in the attempted murder-for-hire of Judge Stephen Ellis, 35th Judicial District Court Judge of Brown County, Texas. U.S. District Judge Sam R. Cummings ordered a presentence investigation report with sentencing to be scheduled after the completion of that report.
Specifically, Harrison pleaded guilty to two counts of using interstate commerce facilities in the commission of murder-for-hire. Each count carries a maximum statutory sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Harrison was incarcerated on drug charges in the Brown County Jail, in Brownwood, Texas, when he committed these offenses. He is now in federal custody. Brownwood is approximately 67 miles southeast of Abilene, Texas.
According to plea papers filed, on March 2, 2010, law enforcement received information that Harrison had inquired about hiring an individual to murder Judge Ellis, who was handling his drug case. A confidential informant (CI) introduced Harrison to a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) special agent, working in an undercover capacity, who was portrayed to Harrison as an Aryan prison gang member who could handle this
contract. Harrison first contacted the undercover agent by phone and stated:
I don’t want to say too much, I was just letting you know the court, it’s 35th Judicial [District], Steve Ellis is my judge, he said you’d get some paperwork rolling for me, so I’m going to shoot you some money so that we can get that rolling right.
On March 10, 2010, the undercover agent met with Harrison in the Brown County jail and told him that it would cost $10,000 to do this job because of the high risk involved; Harrison agreed to pay it. On more than one occasion, Harrison told the undercover agent that he could get the $10,000, once saying
I’m going to pay and it’s going to get even better when I get out.
Later that evening, Harrison called the undercover agent from a phone in the Brown County jail and said:
I got back to the tank and talked to [the CI], and let me tell you that 10 [$10,000] in the end, it’s all good, I got you covered on that. That’s all we need to talk about. I just wanted to call and let you know that’s straight, thank you for coming to visit … I’m trying to hit the streets so we can make all this go down the way we like.
In another conversation, on March 17, 2010, when the undercover agent met Harrison at the jail, the undercover agent asked Harrison if he had any preference as to how the execution took place. Harrison advised that he did not care as long as the job got done. Harrison advised that he would hear about it and read about it in the
funny papers. The undercover agent then asked:
[y]ou’re going to be happy with the job as long as this dude ends up with a toe tag, right?
Harrison advised that this was correct, saying
It’s going to be funny putting this **** in the morgue. Harrison stated that he had a suppression hearing before the judge on March 22, 2010. The undercover agent stated that he/she didn’t know if he/she could do the job before the suppression hearing, but that it was going to happen
On March 24, 2010, the undercover agent conducted a ruse with Harrison. The undercover agent, wearing handcuffs, was brought into the same interview room as Harrison. When the two were alone, the undercover agent asked Harrison,
did you drop the dime on me? Harrison responded that he hadn’t and the undercover agent replied that someone had because he was caught an hour outside of town and that they’d found the body. Harrison repeated that he hadn’t said anything.
The undercover agent later re-entered the room with Harrison and advised that he/she was a Special Agent with ATF. Harrison was informed of his constitutional rights, but waived them to speak with law enforcement. The undercover agent said,
what I’m telling you is, what you’re charged with is promising to pay me something of value to kill [Judge Stephen Ellis] Harrison replied:
yeah, I guess I did. U.S. Attorney Jacks praised the investigative efforts of the ATF, the West Central Texas Interlocal Crime Task Force, the Texas Rangers, and the Brown County Sheriff’s Office.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Haag, of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Lubbock, Texas, is in charge of the prosecution.