A public defender for Dallas County has landed herself in hot water after an investigation allegedly uncovered evidence of her abusing her position to gain unauthorized access to sensitive information.
Ragan Sierra Moreno, 28, was arrested last week on a felony charge of misconduct and was released on a $5,000 bond, according to The Dallas Morning News.
She has been a county employee for eight months and has been licensed to practice law in Texas since 2020.
Her behavior came under scrutiny on September 9 when detectives with the Dallas County Intelligence Office received a tip that she had allegedly been visiting inmate Todd Whitfield.
While she had once represented Whitfield on a dismissed misdemeanor charge of vehicle burglary, he was no longer her client.
The investigation apparently found sufficient evidence that Moreno had been entertaining a “personal relationship” with Whitfield after they met, citing several long jail visits and frequent phone calls.
During one instance, a phone conversation allegedly revealed that Moreno meant to expose herself to Whitfield from outside his jail cell window. Reportedly, he waved a towel to signal his location to her but she was unable to follow through due to a marked Dallas County Marshal vehicle nearby.
The recent charge pertains to allegations of Moreno’s abuse of her official position within a taxpayer-funded institution.
“She apparently used her Dallas County ID to gain access to the inmate and criminal records of another inmate,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement, according to the DMN.
She allegedly used her county-issued laptop to gather this sensitive information, such as complainants’ initials in criminal proceedings, and pass it on to Whitfield.
This allegedly enabled Whitfield to threaten a complainant connected to his brother’s pending case for assault involving serious bodily injury.
“I swear before Christ you haven’t met me, but you will, and how you meet me depends all on you,” one of the messages reportedly sent to the alleged victim from Whitfield’s jail tablet read, according to WFAA.
If found guilty, Moreno could face several repercussions, including losing her license to practice law in Texas.
Crime continues to plague Dallas, with 18,966 assaults logged this year by the City as of September 19, according to data from the City’s crime analytics dashboard. Of these, 4,863 were considered aggravated assaults due to them causing serious bodily injury or involving a deadly weapon.
Exacerbating the issue has been the Dallas Police Department’s shortage of officers, as previously discussed by Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia in an interview with The Dallas Express.
The City currently maintains a force of fewer than 3,200 sworn officers, whereas an internal report advised that Dallas needs about 4,000 on staff.