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Trial Of Bexar County’s Opioid Lawyer Delayed, Alleged History Of Abuse

Joey Palacios
Texas Public Radio
Martin Phipps standing at lectern in front of Bexar County Courthouse

Martin Phipps, 51, whose firm is co-leading Bexar County’s lawsuit against opioid manufacturers and distributors went before a judge Friday over allegedly using a phone to harass his ex-wife while “under the influence” of narcotics.

The case was “reset” or rescheduled at the request of both the District Attorney’s office and Phipps’ attorney, Michael McCrum. This is the second 30-day continuance in the case.

Charges have yet to be filed. County Court Judge Carlo Key noted the filing delay.

“Tick tock, time is a runnin'. We need to get this case filed,” said Key, pointing out that the alleged incident took place on the day after Christmas.

On Feb. 8, Phipps was arrested on suspicion of telephone harassment of his now ex-wife Brenda Vega, a class-B misdemeanor. Phipps’ lawyers have denied the allegations.

Phipps sat quietly through the Zoom proceeding, appearing tired. McCrum, his attorney, said his office hasn’t received an initial investigator’s report.

Richard Guerra with the DA’s office said he had not received the complete investigation from San Antonio Police. He said two things were holding them up, that police may not have been able to access Phipps’ phone without compromising protected work as an attorney, as well as a law enforcement investigation he described as still ongoing.

“I was told that they're still conducting interviews, and that's where we are right now,” said Guerra.

TPR has learned that the investigation has expanded into other areas as San Antonio Police scheduled additional interviews in March.

In direct Twitter messages that TPR reviewed, the brother of Phipps’ former longtime girlfriend, Caroline Duesing, said that detectives were traveling to Dallas to speak with her.

Duesing and her brother — who wrote the Twitter messages — have not responded to TPR’s requests for comment.

“I’d honestly like to, just need to clear with our attorney first. Most important thing for us is protecting Caroline,” said Matthew Duesing in a February Twitter message to TPR.

The District Attorney’s office declined to answer TPR’s questions about the delay.

Newly Revealed Texts Describe Actions that Led to Phipps’ Arrest

Phipps’ arrest stemmed from alleged harassment of his ex wife Vega, 24.

The couple got married on Dec. 18 at Phipps’ bar Paramour, located on the roof of the building that bears his name and where his law firm is housed. They had dated just a few weeks before the wedding. Before that, Vega worked as a paralegal and Phipps’ assistant at the firm.

According to police records, Phipps confronted Vega aggressively at his King William home. The records further state that Vega told police Phipps was high and in an agitated state at the time of the confrontation.

According to text messages TPR reviewed that have not been reported on previously, Vega was panicked and texted a co-worker on how to get away from Phipps.

“Help,” said Vega in a 2 a.m. message sent the day after Christmas.

“I need your help to escape,” she wrote hours later. “No police.”

In the messages Vega said if she left by the front door, Phipps might hear her and that she was scared of her husband.

“Idk what to do,” she said, “If I should walk out no clothes and leave my s***.”

“Yes if you're in danger leave,” her co-worker said.

Her co-worker — who was not in San Antonio — told Vega to get an Uber.

According to the police warrant, Vega was so fearful for her life “she fled the residence, fleeing to Mexico while leaving behind her personal belongings…”

“You left,” said Phipps in a text message that afternoon.

Phipps would pepper her phone with text messages and voice calls over the next few days. Police took Vega’s phone for several days to catalogue the messages.

“The Defendant (Phipps) continued to send the Victim over 40 electronic communications, namely text messages over the course of two days in a manner reasonably likely to demean, harass, alarm and torment the victim,” wrote Aisha Jackson, an SAPD detective.

Phipps’ executive assistants have had a tumultuous few years. He sued one for embezzlement in 2016. He married Vega who later fled him and, briefly, the country. His new assistant Samantha Castillo was arrested in early April for intoxication manslaughter after a fatal collision with a cyclist about two blocks from the firm’s offices.

A History of Abuse Alleged

TPR has learned that another Phipps ex levelled serious accusations against the high-profile lawyer and sought police help. In September 2014, a former girlfriend filed an incident report with the Shavano Park Police Department.

In it she said that she and Phipps had flown to Las Vegas together and during the trip he assaulted her.

“She stated that he had been drinking and became belligerent; grabbing her arms while holding her down on the bed and was choking her and struck her once in the face,” read the incident report.

The officer noted that there were “visible contusions on both her arms and one on left side of her chin.”

She told police it was the third time he had assaulted her, each time more severely, said the report. She cried several times while speaking to police.

In the report she is emphatic that she doesn’t want to file charges, but is afraid and wanted to inform police in case something else happened. In the report she does not identify her boyfriend.

“(She) stated that she did not she did not want to disclose the perpetrator’s personal information due to possible retaliation and other reasons,” said the report.

However, TPR has confirmed with three former employees that she was dating Martin Phipps at that time.

“That was a part of my life that I wish to not remember, and would rather forget, and I don’t want to drag my family into this,” said the woman — who is also an attorney in town — when TPR reached out.

Other allegations against Phipps emerged earlier this year.

Days after Martin Phipps was arrested in early February, a second young woman came forward alleging harassing text messages. Lana Cop, a 22-year-old former Paramour worker, posted several videos on TikTok saying that she too had worked for Phipps and she too experienced abusive text messages and calls from the San Antonio lawyer after they dated.

The young woman posted multiple videos alleging that Phipps used the club drug MDMA or “Molly.”

TPR confirmed with former Phipps employees that the two dated and that Cop showed them text messages from Phipps that had made her distressed at the time.

When TPR wrote about it she initially asked that TPR take the story and videos off TPR.org, but later changed her mind.

“There are enough people who also dealt with him beginning to speak about it & I am willing to allow you to use my story and also answer any other questions you may have. I was scared that he would retaliate,” she said in an email.

Cop never returned calls for a scheduled interview and eventually made videos private.

Paul Flahive can be reached at paul@tpr.org or on Twitter @paulflahive

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Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org