With Millions at Stake, Exoneree Steven Phillips Arrested in Carrollton For Cocaine Possession

Steven Phillips, a man who spent 25 years in prison for a string of Dallas rapes he did not commit, was arrested in Carrollton for cocaine possession -- an arrest that could cost him millions.

When reached by phone, Phillips declined to comment. But according to the arrest affidavit obtained by Unfair Park, on August 15, at around 9:48 p.m., Carrollton Police pulled his red Toyota Tundra over for having a cracked taillight. Phillips had had a little to drink, so he let a friend drive him. The friend, it turned out, had a suspended license and two active warrants with the Addison Police.

She was arrested. Phillips blew into a portable breath tester and was found to be below the legal limit. The police ran his drivers' license and requested to search the truck. Phillips consented, and, according to the affidavit, an officer came up with two plastic bags containing four grams of coke in a take-out container.

Possession of cocaine in any amount is a felony. In 2009, Phillips applied for and subsequently received statutory compensation for the years he spent wrongfully imprisoned -- some $4 million, half paid in a lump sum and the other half paid out in an annuity that garners five-percent interest each year until the day he dies. There's a caveat: If he's convicted of a felony, the annuity is gone.

Because he has no legitimate felony convictions on his record, he could potentially received deferred adjudication, a sort of plea deal that would likely include probation, supervision, drug treatment and community service. That way he could avoid a felony conviction and continue receiving monthly checks.

If nothing else, Phillips's current predicament brings into sharp relief issues being argued in his lawsuit against his former attorney, Kevin Glasheen. As we discussed in a recent cover story, Glasheen represented Phillips and a dozen other exonerees, eventually succeeding in petitioning the state legislature to more than triple the amount Texas pays the innocent when the courts get it wrong.

Phillips contests Glasheen's entire bill, which amounts to 25 percent of his whole take, including the annuity, because he claims he wanted to sue the city. Glasheen has said Philips knew about the legislative strategy and ended up filing for the newly increased compensation on his own. Other former clients who are suing Glasheen, including exoneree James Giles, take issue mainly with the percentage of the annuity Glasheen claimed -- an annuity that may very well never be paid. Glasheen has said he was collecting on the present value of the annuity, much like a structured settlement.

But in a structured settlement, that money is guaranteed. Not so here. In Phillips's case, if he's convicted, the annuity -- valued at $2 million -- is gone.

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Brantley Hargrove