Zoom kitten lawyer was involved in raid on an 'ex lover's' smoke shop

Texas lawyer made famous by Zoom kitten filter was previously accused of ordering a search warrant on smoke shop owned by a woman who said she had sex with him when she was 18 and he was in his 50s

  • Attorney Rod Ponton, 69, was involved in a 2014 raid on The Purple Zone, a smoke shop in Alpine, Texas, when he was DA Attorney of Brewster County
  • The shop’s owner Ilana Lipsen, her mom and sister were arrested 
  • Her sister and a DEA agent both accused each other of assault in the raid 
  • No illegal drugs were found but ammunition was found 
  • This came after a 2012 drugs raid where substances were seized 
  • Lipsen pleaded guilty to first-degree felony manufacturing and possession of a controlled substance over the 2012 raid in exchange for 2014 charges dropped 
  • The case was mired in controversy as testing on the products showed the chemicals weren’t actually illegal in Texas at the time
  • Lipsen claims she was harassed by Ponton because she had a one-night stand with him 11 years earlier when she was 18 and he was in his 50s
  • She says she rebuffed him but that Ponton became ‘creepy’ and would ‘stalk’ her
  • Ponton denies ever being in a relationship with Lipsen and insists the case against her was ‘handled professionally’
  • The attorney gained newfound attention this week when he accidentally left the amusing kitten filter on during a Zoom court hearing

The Texas lawyer who went viral with his Zoom kitten filter this week was previously accused of ordering a search warrant on a smoke shop owned by a woman who said she had sex with him when she was 18 and he was in his 50s.

Attorney Rod Ponton, 69, was involved in a 2014 raid on The Purple Zone, a hookah bar and smoke shop in Alpine, Texas, when he was working as District Attorney of Brewster County. 

The shop’s owner Ilana Lipsen, as well as her mom and sister, was arrested on charges around the possession of illegal synthetic marijuana in the raid where her sister and a DEA agent both accused each other of assault.

Lipsen pleaded guilty to first-degree felony manufacturing and possession of a controlled substance over products seized in a 2012 raid in exchange for the 2014 charges being dropped against her family.

However, the case and charges were mired in controversy as testing on the products showed the chemicals weren’t actually illegal in Texas at the time.

The shop owner claims she was harassed by Ponton because she had a one-night stand with him 11 years earlier when she was 18 and he was in his 50s.

She says she rebuffed him but that Ponton became ‘creepy’ and would ‘stalk’ her, before he sent cops to her business on several occasions. 

Ponton has denied ever being in a relationship with Lipsen and insisted the case against her was ‘handled professionally’. 

The attorney gained newfound attention this week when footage was posted online of the moment he accidentally left the amusing kitten filter on during a Zoom court hearing and was heard frantically telling the judge ‘I’m not a cat’. 

Texas lawyer Rod Ponton (pictured) who went viral with his Zoom kitten filter this week was previously at the center of a controversial search warrant and drugs raid on a smoke shop belonging to a woman who says she was his former lover

Ponton’s first brush with infamy first arose in 2012 when The Purple Zone was raided by a SWAT team and potpourri products were seized from the incense section of the store, reported the Texas Observer at the time.

As county prosecutor at the time, Ponton said the products contained ‘spice’.

However testing by both the state and by Lipsen found no trace of spice and that the products were not illegal.  

In May 2014 Ponton then requested and obtained the search warrant against The Purple Zone.

The raid was part of Project Synergy Phase II, a national day of DEA raids on May 7, 2014 in the war on synthetic drugs. 

Lipsen, her sister and her mom – who did not work at the store – were all arrested in the raid. 

Lipsen’s sister Arielle claimed she suffered a neck injury after being thrown to the ground by an agent, according to the Observer. 

No illegal drugs were found in the raid but ammunition was found and Lipsen was charged with ‘receiving ammunition while under indictment.’

Lipsen was jailed and told she could only post bond and leave jail if she signed a letter agreeing to walk back her complaints about the federal agents, tell local media the DEA had a legitimate reason to execute the warrant, say her sister assaulted the DEA agent, and ask a local blogger to delete photos from the raid online, reported the Observer.

Attorney Rod Ponton, 69, was involved in a 2014 raid on The Purple Zone, a hookah bar and smoke shop in Alpine, Texas, when he was working as District Attorney of Brewster County. Pictured an officer at the store during the raid

The shop’s owner Ilana Lipsen, as well as her mom and sister, was arrested on charges around the possession of illegal synthetic marijuana in the raid where her sister and a DEA agent both accused each other of assault

Lipsen agreed and four months later she pleaded guilty to a state charge of felony drug possession over the 2012 raid while the federal charges against her, her sister and her mom over the 2014 raid were dropped. 

Lipsen’s record will be clean after 10 years’ probation.  

After seeing Ponton hit headlines again this week, Lipsen told Business Insider the raid and charges were part of a harassment campaign against her by local law enforcement and led by Ponton. 

She  had a brief fling with the attorney in 2003 and that he became ‘creepy’ when she ended things, Lipsen said in claims first made to Reason back in 2014 which she doubled down on in an interview with Insider this week.

She claimed she had a one-night stand with Ponton when she first moved to the small town as a college student in 2003. 

At the time, she was 18 while Ponton was in his early 50s. 

Lipsen said she was ‘disgusted with herself’ and called it off.

Lipsen (in mug) pleaded guilty to first-degree felony manufacturing and possession of a controlled substance over products seized in a 2012 raid in exchange for the charges being dropped against her family

But she claimed Ponton would drive by her house ‘almost like he was stalking me’.

Lipsen told Insider she ‘ditched him because he was creepy’. 

She said she believes he then saw ‘an opportunity to f** me up’.

Lipsen told the outlet the incident had left her with ‘severe PTSD’ and she was forced to move town and ‘reinvent myself.’ 

Ponton has said claims of a sexual relationship with Lipsen as a ‘lie’ and said the case had been handled correctly. 

‘We never had a relationship. I never had sex with her. All that stuff is false,’ he told Insider. 

‘No reports were ever filed. Everything she said was a lie. No one took anything she said seriously.’

He added: ‘The charges were brought by the police and the authorities. The case was handled professionally.’ 

However three other residents of the small town backed up Lipsen’s claims of a fling to Insider this week.

Tom Cochran, the blogger who had posted the photos of the raid online, also told the outlet he was ‘personally threatened… with seven felonies’ by Ponton if he didn;t take down the pictures.

Ponton worked as Brewster County District Attorney from 2013 to 2016.

In 2019, he was appointed as Alpine City attorney but was sensationally ousted in November amid escalating tensions between Ponton and city officials.

Ponton had accused Alpine Police Department of a ‘repeated pattern of police misconduct,’ while city council members said there was ‘a significant lack of trust’ in him.

The shop owner claims she was harassed by Ponton (left) because she had a one-night stand with him 11 years earlier when she was 18 and he was in his 50s. Ponton has denied ever being in a relationship with Lipsen and insisted the case against her was ‘handled professionally’

Ponton also appeared in the Netflix documentary The Confession Killer in 2019 about the infamous convicted murderer Henry Lee Lucas, whom he represented in his 1986 capital murder prosecution. 

The amusing kitten filter video went viral this week following the mishap during a live-streamed hearing Tuesday morning for the 394th Judicial District Court of Brewster. 

The video begins with presiding judge Roy Ferguson telling Ponton: ‘I believe you have a filter turned on in video settings and you might want to turn it off.’

Ponton is then heard letting out a panicked ‘aghh’, as the cat filter over his face begins shifting its eyes back-and-forth and moving its mouth in unison with his voice.

‘Can you hear me judge,’ the feline-emblazoned Ponto is heard asking, his voice quivering.

Ferguson confirms that he can hear Ponton and reiterates that he believes he has a filter switched on. 

‘It is [a filter]’, Ponton hastily interjects. ‘And I don’t know how to remove it. I’ve got my assistant here, she’s trying to, but ahhh I’m prepared to go forward with it… I’m here live, I’m not a cat.’   

The attorney gained newfound attention this week when footage was posted online of the moment he accidentally left the amusing kitten filter on during a Zoom court hearing and was heard frantically telling the judge ‘I’m not a cat’ 

At this point, the two other people present at the hearing, H. Gibbs Bauer and Jerry L. Phillips, begin to laugh. 

Judge Ferguson, however, manages to keep a straight face, offering a deadpan response of: ‘I can see that.’

The judge then begins calmly offering Ponton a step-by-step guide for how to remove the kitten filter, before the video abruptly cuts out. 

Ponton has since revealed that he was using his secretary’s computer at a remote office in Presidio, telling the San Antonio Express that this is the first time something like this has happened in the eight months he’s been using Zoom amid the pandemic. 

‘It was certainly not an intentional thing to put the cat image up there but s*** happens,’ he laughed. 

‘If I can make everybody laugh for a moment at my expense, I’ll take it.’ 

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