Where There’s Smokie There’s Fire

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The race for top lawman in south Harris County apparently includes the nasty practice of stealing political signs. One of the candidates was even accused by the federal government of being a lookout for a Colombian drug cartel. If we’ve learned anything here it’s that where there’s “SMOKIE” there’s fire.

“Why you would steal my signs? I don’t understand it. This is unreal,” Gary Hicks said.

Gary Hicks is one of three guys running to be the constable on the city’s southside.

And what we’re about to show you should never be part of our political discourse.

Three of Hicks’ campaign signs, bent up and shoved into a van allegedly driven by this guy, David Earl Caldwell.

Hicks captured this photo of Caldwell with the evidence redhanded.

“I know who you are. I’ve been knowing you for years,” Hicks said to Caldwell.

“Sir, for taking your signs, I apologize to you,”  Caldwell told Hicks.

But was David Caldwell acting all on his own?

“I know who your cousin is. This is unreal, that you would steal my signs,” Hicks said to Caldwell.

Caldwell’s cousin is also running for Precinct 7.

We’re talking about James “Smokie” Phillips, who has been a Precinct 7 captain for nearly 20 years.

His phone shows he was calling the same number four times in 30 minutes that day, a number that Hicks says belongs to Smokie Phillips.

“I’m really disappointed that he’s still there. I’m disappointed of his actions. I think he needs to be gone. He’s not professional. He’s not ethical,” Hicks said.

Phillips has been a lawman in this town for three decades, and boy did he get in trouble back in the ‘90s.

He was a Harris County Sheriff’s deputy in 1996 when he was busted in a huge cocaine trafficking ring involving Mexico’s Cali Cartel.

Smokie was one of 11 co-conspirators busted in this cartel scheme by the FBI and DEA.

The indictment detailed Smokie’s alleged role was to use his law enforcement position to protect the drug smugglers, help them avoid detection, and using a state computer to run background checks on potential drug buyers.

Smokie may have been just a deputy, but he had the money to hire noted criminal defense lawyer, Dick DeGuerin.

“I don’t know anybody at the rank of deputy officer, sergeant could afford such a prestigious attorney,” Hicks told us.

Smokie was convicted of a federal conspiracy charge, but the conviction was later thrown out by a judge who found witness testimony vague or inconclusive.

Smokie was never re-tried.

The Feds moved on.

“Hello. Is Smokie Phillips there, please?” Andrea Palacio asked on the phone.

“Yes,” Phillips answered.

Apparently we insulted Smokie by daring to ask for his disciplinary records during our investigation of the campaign, but we don’t care.

We did invite him to do an interview, but he eventually stopped responding.

“As a voter, be an informed voter. Know your candidates,” Michael Coleman said to us.

Michael Coleman is the other candidate in this race for Precinct 7 constable, and he says Smokie should be up-front with the voters about that federal indictment, what he did and didn’t do.

We agree.

“If you’re being transparent. Yes. Just address it with the voters so they all know what to think. If not, voters actually go and Google the name and all this stuff comes up,” Coleman said.

“ So what’s your big thing that you got going on? I know people see your pictures all over the city,” AK Babers asked Phillips.

Instead, Smokie does podcast interviews where he’s not asked the tough questions.

“I’m actually running for office to replace Constable May Walker, who’s decided to retire. I served there about 18 years as a captain under her. And I talked to her about running, she said, ‘Go out there an run Smokie. Go out there and win,’” Phillips said on a podcast.

Constable May Walker actually called me back the other day.

Even my investigations back in TV times landed her before a grand jury.

“But tonight, she’s hired a criminal defense lawyer,” Dolcefino said on the news.

“Hey, this is May Walker. I thought you had clunked or something. I hadn’t heard from you in so long,” Walker told Dolcefino.

She likes me.

And we assumed she was backing her captain, but it turns out she’s not.

“You don’t want Smokie to be the constable?” Dolcefino asked.

“I don’t care if he’d be the constable. I’m not endorsing him,” Walker responded.

Walker didn’t hire Smokie Phillips, she inherited him after the whole drug stuff.

Smokie has a clean record working for her, she says, but she also pointed out that it’s hard to get in trouble when all you have is a desk job.

“No, because Smokie is in an administrative position. He’s a captain, and captains don’t do nothing, they do paperwork,” Walker said.

You know who can’t seem to move on from the unresolved cartel questions? Smokie Phillips.

Look at this website, leagle.com.

It has a summary of the federal court case known, as the United States vs. Cornett.

Curiously, Smokie has commented on it twice in the past 3 years.

On September 28, 2021, he wrote: “This case was built on lies, false affidavits and testimony.”

And on March 12, 2023, not even a year ago, he commented again, seeming to imply that the case against him might still be alive someday.

“I’m trying to Rule 35 my ass out of here. I’m ready to lie,” Phillips said.

We looked up Rule 35, it’s a federal rule of criminal procedure that permits a court, upon a government motion, to impose a new or reduced sentence that may go below the recommended guideline range and any statutory mandatory minimum penalty.

But, again, Smokie won’t tell us why he posted it and won’t answer our questions.

“No, I’m not endorsing in this race,” Walker told us.

“If she’s not an endorsement, that is very weird, actually, for your boss not to endorse you,” Coleman said.

“I’m not endorsing,” Walker said.

“If your own boss won’t support you, what does that say about you?” Hicks said.

“I’m about the people,” Coleman told us.

Candidate Michael Coleman has 36 years in law enforcement and has lived his whole life in Precinct 7.

“The community is not very trusting of the police. So you need someone who’s going to be open, honest, have integrity and to be able to do the job,” Coleman said.

Coleman says his signs have been stolen too, he just hasn’t caught them red-handed like his opponent has.

David Caldwell has been charged with felony theft, says a law enforcement source who witnessed the arrest.

“He’s a career thief. He’s been arrested for theft many, many, many, many times, and he always pleads out,” a law enforcement source told us.

Just look at his rap sheet: theft, sexual assault, weapons, drunk driving.

“So for that reason they chose to seek out a felony charge of theft against him for an aggregate amount, simply because of his history of being a thief and how many times he’s been arrested and gone to jail,” a law enforcement source said.

The case is being worked by the Houston Police Department’s Major Offender’s Division because of possible election interference, interference that may involve Smokie Phillips himself.

“Alright family, let’s do this,” Phillips said on a podcast.

“If y’all connected Smokie with the sign stealing, he needs to be arrested too, no?” Palacio asked the law enforcement source.

“Left up to us, because we know exactly who directed this person to steal these signs, yes, he would be arrested,” said the law enforcement source.

Smokie has not been charged with any wrongdoing with the sign stealing, and the Caldwell case will have to be decided ultimately by the DA.

“Run, Smokie, run,” laughed Phillips on podcast.

“What’s been really insulting to me is that I’ve been told I need to watch my back, because something could happen to me. I’m not understanding that. Why do I need to watch my back?” Hicks said to us.

Michael Coleman simply wants what we want: voters to be informed.

“I’m cordial with Smokie, I’m cordial with Gary. We are running the same race. For me, I’m going to take the high road. For them two, they can figure out what they want to do,” Coleman told us.

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