Monday and Tuesday, Democratic Impeachment Managers spent hours piecing together a prosecution to demonstrate that former President Donald Trump, a sitting president at the time, incited an insurrection at the US Capitol. A historic moment, undoubtedly.
And yet, it seems we all spent those two days with our attention trained on one Texas lawyer who, while appearing for a court hearing via Zoom, accidentally activated a face filter that made him look like an adorable kitten.
His totally unnecessary assurance to the judge—"I am not a cat"—became a hilarious refrain throughout the couple days.
But the fun and games only lasted so long.
Massive viral internet fame exposed attorney Rod Ponton to the deep diving powers that only millions of eyes across the internet are capable of.
A journalist released his report from 2014 which detailed how Ponton, a local prosecutor at the time, used the resources of his office to orchestrate brutal drug raids at the head shop of a former lover he was upset with. He even roped in the FBI.
Thanks reality—you just can't make this kind of content up.
First, here's the original video that made Ponton king for a day. You may have seen it already.
But let's be honest, you want to watch it again.
A lawyer using Zoom had to let a judge know that he wasn’t a cat after inadvertently activating a face filter https://t.co/vChc14mjM1— Mikael Thalen (@Mikael Thalen)1612895701.0
Then millions of views and retweets later, journalist Anthony L. Fisher dropped a bombshell.
I had read about a violent, militarized raid on a small Texas college town's head shop. The shop's owner was forc… https://t.co/X1Z1CFb88w— Anthony L. Fisher (@Anthony L. Fisher)1612924236.0
Fisher's report, originally published in Reason, pieced together a wild chain of events.
In 2003, a young woman named Ilana Lipsen arrived in Alpine, Texas as an 18-year-old. She had a one night stand with Ponton, who was in his early 50s at the time.
Regretful of the tryst, Lipsen decided to put the night behind her, cutting off contact with Ponton altogether. Nine years later, in 2012, the young woman opened a headshop called "The Purple Zone."
She sold potpourri there, which sometimes can qualify as an illegal form of synthetic cannabis (people smoke it and severely injure themselves). Her variety of potpourri was totally legal, however.
Nonetheless, Ponton, who was the District Attorney of Brewster County, Texas at the time, sent the police after Ipsen.
Fisher described the raid in his report:
"In March 2012, '10-12 men came in, SWAT team style' to the Purple Zone, Lipsen recalls."
"They told her she was not under arrest, but cuffed her and threw her in the back of a police van while they searched her store, seized personal property including computers, a cell phone, and hard drives.
"They also took numerous packets of what Lipsen sells as potpourri in the incense section of the store, adorned with the colorful brand names such as 'Dr. Feelgood,' 'Scooby Snax' and 'Bomb! Marley.'"
Ipsen was arrested until she used a lab to prove the legality of the substances.
But Ponton came at her again two years later, this time sending the Drug Enforcement Agency—a federal agency—to bust through the door and ransack the place.
Nothing illegal was found, but Ponton still had Ipsen slapped with with an obscure "receiving ammunition while under indictment" charge. Ipsen eventually took a plea deal that dropped the ammunition charge.
But she still was forced to plead guilty to "first-degree felony manufacture, delivery, and possession of a controlled substance," even though she never had anything illegal in her shop. After it was all over, Ipsen closed her store and left town.
Ponton had successfully ruined Ipsen's attempt to forget him.When people on Twitter—once huge fans of Ponton thanks to the cat video—saw the news, they were mostly upset that a once innocent internet moment was hopelessly made terrible just as fast.
@anthonyLfisher @allahliker DO👏🏼NOT👏🏼RUIN👏🏼THIS👏🏼WE👏🏼NEED👏🏼THIS👏🏼— assberg (@assberg)1612926312.0
@anthonyLfisher Nothing gold can stay.— Deborah Copaken (@Deborah Copaken)1612960975.0
6pm: cat lawyer zoom stops being endearing due to overexposure 7pm: someone on twitter finds out that the cat lawy… https://t.co/XYgE94p3eg— rebecca jennings (@rebecca jennings)1612908502.0
@anthonyLfisher Cat lawyer isn’t adorable anymore, dang it.— Catherine FULLY VACCINATED! House Moderna 💉 (@Catherine FULLY VACCINATED! House Moderna 💉)1612932983.0
@anthonyLfisher gah. why does every good thing turn to a damn horror story.— mf (@mf)1612926221.0
You'll have to be the judge of how to handle the cat video with this information in mind.
Do you think about Ponton's past of harassment every time, or compartmentalize and enjoy the hilarity of the clip with blinders on?
Or were we laughing at Ponton and not with him all along?