A former McLennan County Sheriff’s Office lieutenant who was arrested two years ago on charges she illegally provided law enforcement information to her biker boyfriend two months before he was arrested in the Twin Peaks shootout was placed on pretrial diversion this week.
Jennifer Guftason Howell, 42, who initially was charged with misuse of official information, a third-degree felony, signed a contract Tuesday with the McLennan County District Attorney’s Office to enter its pretrial diversion program on a Class B misdemeanor charge of criminal mischief.
Howell resigned from her position at the McLennan County Jail and is now working as a rural mail carrier, her attorney, Melanie Walker, said.
Howell was arrested after a Texas Department of Public Safety investigator found text messages between Howell and a member of the Cossacks motorcycle group while investigating bikers’ cellphone data after the deadly May 2015 Twin Peaks shootout, according to an arrest affidavit.
The unidentified Cossack asked Howell to get him the name and address associated with the license plate of a vehicle that ran another biker off the road, the affidavit states.
“The defendant admitted to directing another law enforcement officer to ‘run’ the license plate,” the court documents state. “The defendant admitted to providing this information that is prohibited from disclosure to the public to the confirmed gang member via text message.”
Howell was a sergeant at the time the messages were sent and discussed “information believed to be related to law enforcement sensitive material that is not available to the general public,” the affidavit states. “During these conversations, the defendant acknowledges to the confirmed gang member that the information that the defendant sent could get the defendant in trouble.”
Howell told investigators she and the unidentified Cossack were romantically involved at the time, according to the affidavit.
Walker said it took so long for Howell’s case to be resolved because prosecutors had a weak case.
“She was charged with misuse of official information,” Walker said. “One element of that was they had to prove an intent to harm. She got information from a biker and had somebody from Waco PD run that information and then conveyed a city and a first name of a driver. It was a woman in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Someone was run off the road, so what she did was only give them enough information to ensure it didn’t have anything to do with the Bandidos and that the person wasn’t targeted. It was just a random accident and it was months before Twin Peaks. That is all she did, and the state couldn’t prove she had the intent to harm anybody.”
Howell was not going to seek pretrial intervention because participants in the program have to confess to their crimes.
“She was not going to confess to a crime she did not commit,” Walker said. “The pretrial diversion program is great for guilty people, not innocent people. This was a compromise, a lesser, unrelated charge.”
Howell will be in the program under the supervision of the DA’s office for two years, Walker said. If she completes the program, the charge will be dismissed, and she would be eligible to have the arrest expunged from her record.
Howell had worked at the sheriff’s office since 2009. She was promoted to lieutenant in 2015.