Eleanor Dearman, El Paso Times
A Texas representative from Eagle Pass allegedly dropped an official statehouse envelope containing cocaine at an Austin airport, according to an affidavit filed in Travis County.
State Rep. Poncho Nevárez, a Democrat who’s district spans much of the Texas-Mexico border, was captured in surveillance footage in early September “dropping a white paper object” as he was getting into the passenger seat of a SUV.
On Thursday a warrant for Nevárez’s arrest was issued, according to the Austin-American Statesman. Nevárez is charged with a third-degree felony for possessing between 1 and 4 grams of cocaine, the paper reports.
The El Paso Times is working to obtain a copy of the warrant.
The four-term state representative earlier this month announced his retirement. In a statement Nevárez said “unfortunately, the news is true.” He also added that he plans to seek treatment.
“It is why I chose not seek re-election,” Nevárez said in the statement. “I had imperiled my health. I do not have anyone to blame but myself. I accept this because it is true and it will help me get better.”
Asked about news that an arrest warrant had been issued, Nevárez in a text said “I am taking care of that soon.”
“It’s part of the process,” he wrote.
Affidavit gives details
The affidavit, which is for a search warrant for a DNA sample, states that on Sept. 6, four “small clear plastic baggies containing a white powder-like substance” were found by the Texas Department of Transportation employees inside a sealed envelope.
The envelope had an “Office of the State of Texas House of Representatives Member Poncho Nevárez” letterhead on it.
The document states that Nevárez is suspected of third degree felony possession of a controlled substance. The Department of Public Safety, in a Thursday email, provided a copy of search warrant affidavit.
“This incident remains under investigation, and the department continues to work in conjunction with the Travis Co. District Attorney,” the email states. “No additional information is available at this time.”
Nevárez, who is a personal injury attorney, arrived at the Austin Bergstrom International Airport in a plane owned by the Nevárez Law Group at about 10:24 a.m, according to the affidavit. He later got into a black SUV owned by his chief of staff, it states.
“Through training and experience, I have learned that individuals involved in possession of narcotics would like to remain discreet and typically conceal the narcotics as best they can,” the affidavit from the Texas Department of Public Safety states. “Therefore, it is reasonable to believe (Nevárez), using his own letterhead envelope, licked and sealed the envelope that contained the cocaine in order to keep it concealed.”
Four cotton swabs with Nevárez’s DNA were submitted to the DPS crime lab on Oct. 29, a court document states.
Nevárez gives statement, says ‘news is true’
Nevárez’s full statement reads as follows:
“Unfortunately, the news is true. It is why I chose not seek re-election. I had imperiled my health. I do not have anyone to blame but myself. I accept this because it is true and it will help me get better. In a weird way I am grateful. Grief and addiction were consuming me, but oddly enough, I feel better now than I have in a long time, and I mean that. I have many relationships to repair starting at home and I intend to seek treatment. I apologize to each and every person that feels I have let them down. I look forward to a future with my family and friends, to being healthy, and finally, home.”
Nevárez represents House District 74. He is chair of the Homeland Security & Public Safety and vice chair of the Mass Violence Prevention and Community Safety select committee that was formed in response to mass shootings in El Paso and Odessa.
He announced he would not seek reelection on Nov. 8. On Nov. 6, he released a statement that he’d be deactivating his Facebook page.
Lawmakers, Democratic party respond
Manny Garcia, executive director of the Texas Democratic Party, said it’s important for people to seek help for addiction when they need it.
“Addiction is a serious illness and it is important for people to access the help they need, Rep. Nevárez is taking responsibility and seeking treatment,” Garcia said in a statement. “We wish the best to him and his family during his recovery.”
El Paso Democrat Joe Moody offered similar words in a Thursday statement.
“While I’m saddened by the circumstances, I’m relieved Poncho is taking responsibility and putting his health and family first,” Moody said. “Addiction is insidious and stigma makes it worse; admitting a problem and getting help is a huge step towards recovery that takes real courage.”
State Rep. Chris Turner, chair of the House Democratic Caucus, said “addiction takes a terrible toll on people and the sad situation involving Representative Nevárez is no exception.”
“I am deeply saddened to learn today’s news but I am also encouraged to see that, through his statement today, Poncho is taking responsibility for his actions and intends to seek treatment,” Turner said. “By not seeking reelection, he will be better able to focus his attention on his family and his health, which is where it should be.”
Eleanor Dearman covers the Texas Capitol and politics for the USA TODAY Network Austin Bureau and the El Paso Times. She may be reached at 361-244-0047; firstname.lastname@example.org; @EllyDearman on Twitter.
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