Former Lynnwood attorney accused of smuggling heroin to jail inmates

EVERETT — Detectives on Wednesday arrested a former Lynnwood attorney after he was caught allegedly trying to smuggle heroin to an inmate inside the Snohomish County Jail.

Patrick J. Mullen, 63, reportedly told detectives that he became addicted to prescription pain killers after undergoing hip surgery several years ago. Mullen said that more recently he’d become hooked on heroin, according to a police affidavit filed Thursday in Everett District Court. Mullen said he agreed to smuggle heroin to inmates and, in return, he kept some of the drugs for his own use.

Mullen resigned as an attorney in March in lieu of being disbarred, according to the Washington State Bar Association. He was first admitted to the bar in 1976 and practiced criminal defense and civil litigation.

The bar association took action against Mullen after allegations surfaced that in 2006 Mullen took more than $5,000 from a client in a child custody case but failed to do any work or communicate. The Sammamish man wanted legal representation after his ex-wife announced plans to take their children out of state.

Mullen failed to file any paperwork in the case or show up for court hearings, but continued to take money, according to the complaint against him. After a year, the client fired Mullen and the lawyer agreed to pay back $4,190. Mulllen has never repaid the money, according to the bar association.

His resignation was based on “conduct involving failure to communicate, trust account irregularities, and dishonesty.”

Despite giving up his license to practice law, Mullen continued to meet with inmates at the jail and identified himself as an attorney, according to police. Records show that Mullen visited several inmates every five to six days from mid-May through July. Sometimes he would have back-to-back visits.

Attorneys visit clients in private rooms that are visible to jail staff, but the visits aren’t recorded to protect client-attorney privilege.

The lawyers are screened for weapons and other contraband, but jail staff doesn’t pat them down, said Mark Baird, a chief with the sheriff’s office who oversees the jail.

“There is a level of trust. They are officers of the court,” he said.

Snohomish Regional Drug Task Force detectives were tipped off in July by a confidential source who had heard that an attorney was smuggling in drugs. On Wednesday, investigators learned that Mullen was planning to return to the jail, reportedly carrying heroin.

Mullen showed up and identified himself as an attorney and filled out a visitation form. He was escorted to the visitation room to wait for his client to be brought down from the detention area. That’s when police moved in and made the arrest.

A small balloon believed to be filled with heroin was found in his jacket, according to the police affidavit.

Mullen explained to investigators that an inmate had asked if he could bring drugs to the jail. Mullen told police he was hesitant at first and started by smuggling in chewing tobacco.

Over time, the former lawyer said he started handing out heroin. He said associates of the inmates would meet him and provide the drug. He said he kept some for his personal use and then would deliver the rest during attorney-client visits at the jail, the detective wrote.

Mullen told investigators that he’d also smuggled heroin to an inmate Tuesday at the Whatcom County Jail. That inmate had been transferred from Snohomish County Jail.

Mullen was booked into the Snohomish County Jail for investigation of introducing contraband and possession with intent to deliver. He appeared Thursday in Everett District Court, where bail was set at $2,500.

Jail officials Thursday said that once they learned of the allegations they searched several cells but didn’t recover any heroin. Mullen wasn’t allowed to visit any inmates once the allegations surfaced, Baird said.

Corrections officers are familiar with most of the attorneys who come to the jail. If they aren’t familiar with the attorney, they require the lawyer to show identification, Baird said. Attorneys aren’t required to prove that they are lawyers in good standing with the bar.

Sheriff’s officials don’t receive notification when an attorney is disbarred or is forced to resign. That information is available on the bar association’s website. Sheriff’s officials said they will review their process to see if there is a way to work with the association to be notified in the future.

“We get a large number of these visits. We have to balance trying to facilitate attorneys for the justice process and controlling inmate safety,” Baird said.

Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; hefley@heraldnet.com.

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