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San Antonio

Bexar County's Opioid Lawyer Arrested For Harassment While Allegedly On Drugs

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Joey Palacios
/
Texas Public Radio
Martin Phipps speaking at the Bexar County courthouse

Updated: 2/9

Martin Phipps, the lawyer co-leading Bexar County’s opioid litigation, may have been "under the influence of drugs" in an altercation with his now ex-wife that led to his arrest Monday.

The altercation transpired more than a month ago but Phipps was picked up for Telephone Harassment this week.

The new details come from the affidavit filed to arrest Phipps for the class B misdemeanor.

The arrest caps nearly two months of tumult for the 51 year old's professional an personal life.

Over the last 90 days, Phipps was married, divorced and received an annulment from Brenda Vega, 24.

It was this marriage and the fallout from the divorce that may have led to the public departure of several employees of his law firm Phipps Mayes, including partner TJ Mayes.

Mayes quit in mid January and tweeted that he had done so because Phipps is “a crook” and a “serial abuser of women.”

“From all that I can tell, this is part of a scorched earth campaign against Martin orchestrated by a couple of former employees,” said Michael McCrum, Phipps’ attorney referring to the months' events.

When asked about the drug accusation, McCrum said, "We believe the allegation is false and that Martin is innocent. This truth behind this entire effort by former employees to malign Martin will come out."

Phipps had only been married to Vega a week when, according to the arrest affidavit, Phipps confronted her aggressively while high.

She was so frightened that after waiting for him to fall asleep, she fled Phipps' King William home in the early hours of Dec. 26 without her personal belongings.

She went so far as to leave the country to be with family in Mexico — all the while receiving text messages and calls from Phipps "likely to demean, harass, alarm and torment (Vega)," alleged the affidavit. It wasn't clear if Phipps attempted to communicate with her since late last year.

Details in police documents confirm TPR's earlier reporting based on other documents it had reviewed showing Vega feared for her safety. Vega and Phipps had only known each other a short time when they were wed.

Vega worked at the Phipps’ law firm for about a year and had been transitioned into the position as Phipps’ personal secretary after a few months.

The two had been on a handful of dates over the course of a few weeks prior to their marriage, Phipps’ fourth.

The wedding was held in a private ceremony on Dec. 19, 2020, at Paramour, the bar that Phipps owns on the top of his building near downtown.

Phipps and Vega were married for less than a month, with the alleged violent outburst occurring a week after their wedding.

The first week of January, Phipps asked staff members to make the marriage go away, according to a complaint sent to the Texas state bar TPR has obtained.

"Phipps directed Robert Vargas and me to conspire with the Bexar County Clerk to destroy the marriage license,” said TJ Mayes in his complaint.

When they refused, the complaint said, “Phipps became agitated and claimed that this was the kind of ‘political favor that happens all the time.’”

The marriage was annulled Jan. 12 "in an effort to avoid all contact with (Phipps), fearing violent retaliation as well as the threat of civil litigation for leaving ...," read the affidavit.

Vega spoke with the San Antonio Police Department on Jan. 22. In that three-sentence incident report she told an officer “scared of (Phipps)” that he was verbally abusive and that she asked a number of questions about protective orders, though none were filed.

No case was opened at her request.

TPR reported on Mayes’ departure a little over a week ago.

It subsequently came to light that Phipps had made threats against sitting councilman Manny Pelaez.

It was one of a handful of people he has had — what current and former employees called — Phipps’ “Homicidal fantasies” in a letter addressed to him last month.

Pelaez had at one time done work with Phipps and in recent years represented at least one Phipps employee in a Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint.

An investigation was launched after TPR published its story about the threats, which Pelaez had been unaware of until then.

According to SAPD, it was this investigation that led their officer to speak with Vega and then to file for the warrant. It isn’t clear if Phipps’ firm will continue with the county’s effort to sue big pharmaceutical companies.

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said no decisions have been made, except to put Phipps in the passenger seat.

“I wrote a letter Jan. 13, giving (Mikal) Watts the authority as co-counsel to carry out anything he deemed that was necessary and protecting the legal rights of Bexar County,” Wolff explained.The allegations of drug use were not known at the time TPR spoke to Wolff.

Phipps filed the opioid lawsuit in 2018, and his firm retains half all the fees the lawyers will collect -- more than any of the other law firms in the case, according to the contract. Watts’ firm, called Watts, Guerra, will collect less than 20%.

Phipps and his firm also represents 12 other Texas counties including: Hays, Bastrop, Caldwell, Lubbock, Nueces, and Calhoun, according to public documents and news reports.

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