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Schwertner arrested on suspicion of drunken driving

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State Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, leaves the Travis County jail Tuesday after being arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated. Photo by Evan L’Roy/The Texas TribuneState Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, leaves the Travis County jail Tuesday after being arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated. Photo by Evan L’Roy/The Texas Tribune

By James Barragán and Sneha Dey
The Texas Tribune

AUSTIN — State Sen. Charles Schwertner was arrested early Tuesday morning on suspicion of driving while intoxicated, according to Travis County sheriff’s office records.

Schwertner, a Georgetown Republican, was booked into the Travis County jail at 2:12 a.m. and charged with driving while intoxicated. Records showed Schwertner was in Travis County sheriff’s custody most of Tuesday morning but had received a personal recognizance bond and was released from jail shortly after noon. He is an orthopedic surgeon by trade.

As he left the Travis County jail after noon, Schwertner told reporters: “I’m deeply sorry, apologetic to my citizens and my family. I made a mistake.”

Schwertner’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Texas Tribune. His attorney, Perry Minton, did not respond to a request from the Tribune but told the Austin American-Statesman, which first reported news of Schwertner’s arrest on Twitter: “I met with Senator Schwertner very early this morning directly after his unfortunate arrest. He was certainly humble and embarrassed by his circumstances but he was clear-eyed, sober and making good sense. Because of this, we’ll be interested in the discovery once it becomes available.”

A day after the arrest, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who leads the Senate, castigated Schwertner for his actions.

“There is zero excuse for driving under the influence and putting lives in danger, in particular by a member of the legislature whose conduct should be held to a higher standard,” he said in a statement. “I will await the final outcome of this issue in court before making any further statement on the matter.”

Schwertner was arrested around 12:45 a.m., when an Austin police officer saw the black Cadillac that Schwertner was driving “swerving to the right and the left and split the two lanes repeatedly,” according to an affidavit of probable cause. The officer followed the car and saw it continue to swerve between lanes, the affidavit said. The officer stopped the car and the driver identified himself as Schwertner.

The officer said Schwertner had “bloodshot, glassy, watery eyes, was confused, and had slurred speech patterns.” The officer also said Schwertner had “a strong odor of alcoholic beverage on his breath.”

The officer described Schwertner as “polite, sleepy, cooperative” in the report. Schwertner refused a breath test, and he was not given a blood test to measure his blood alcohol concentration. Schwertner has no previous DWI convictions, according to the affidavit.

Schwertner, who leads the Senate’s Business and Commerce Committee, was expected at the Capitol at 11 a.m. Feb. 7 when the Senate reconvened for the week. The Business and Commerce Committee also had a scheduled hearing to discuss proposed changes by the state’s Public Utilities Commission to the energy market’s design that stemmed from failures that led to millions of people losing power across the state during the 2021 winter freeze. Schwertner, who has served in the Senate since 2013, has expressed dissatisfaction with those changes.

Schwertner missed the Senate’s scheduled meeting and the Business and Commerce Committee’s meeting. Sen. Phil King, a Weatherford Republican who is serving his first term in the Senate, took the helm of the committee as the group’s vice chair.

“The chair, as you know, is not going to be able to be with us today,” said King, who previously served in the House.

Schwertner, 52, has faced other scandals in the past. In 2018, he was accused of sending sexually explicit photos of his genitals to a graduate student at the University of Texas. He denied the allegations, saying that someone else sent the messages using his LinkedIn account and another privacy phone messaging app that belongs to him.

A university investigation, which described the senator as uncooperative, did not clear Schwertner of wrongdoing but said it could not prove Schwertner sent the texts.

After the sexual harassment allegation, Schwertner voluntarily gave up his chairmanship of the Senate’s Health and Human Services Committee to work on other issues in the Legislature and spend more time with his family. Patrick followed the investigation closely.

In 2016, after Austin voters approved stricter requirements for drivers that prompted Uber and Lyft to leave town, Schwertner spearheaded Senate legislation designed to create statewide regulations that would allow the companies to return to the city. The bill aimed to ensure the companies had the same rules in every city in Texas. When he argued for the bill in the Legislature, he said ride-hailing companies provided transportation to people who otherwise “are getting in vehicles and driving drunk.”

Other state lawmakers have faced drunken driving charges in recent years. Former state Rep. Dan Huberty, a Houston Republican, was arrested on a charge of driving while intoxicated in April 2021. He decided to retire later that year.

In 2017, state Rep. Victoria Neave Criado, a Dallas Democrat, was arrested on a charge of driving while intoxicated. She remains in the Legislature.

Such arrests have also been used as political attacks. In 2013, Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, a Democrat, was arrested for and pleaded guilty to drunken driving. Then-Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, demanded her resignation and threatened to use his line-item veto power to cut funding to the office’s Public Accountability Office if she did not resign. When Lehmberg did not resign, Perry defunded the unit. He was later indicted in relation to the move but was cleared of charges.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2023/02/07/charles-schwertner-arrested-texas-senate/.


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County felon named January’s featured fugitive

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Sergio CoronaSergio CoronaSpecial to the News-Times

AUSTIN — Texas 10 Most Wanted Sex Offender Sergio Corona has been named this month’s Featured Fugitive.

The reward for information leading to his arrest is increased to $4,000 in January if the tip is received this month.

Sergio Corona, 57, of Coldspring, has been wanted since July 2021, when the San Jacinto County Sheriff’s Office issued a warrant for his arrest for failure to comply with sex offender registration requirements. In December 2021, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office in Florida issued a warrant for his arrest for a probation violation.

In 1989, Corona was convicted of indecent exposure and sentenced to six months of probation in Texas. In 2002, he was convicted in Florida of sexual battery of a victim under 12. After serving time in prison, he was also sentenced to 10 years of probation. In 2016, Corona relocated back to Texas.

Corona is 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighs about 180 pounds. In addition to Coldspring, he has ties to Florida and Tennessee. For more information or updates in the event of his arrest, view Corona’s wanted bulletin.

Texas Crime Stoppers, which is funded by the Governor’s Criminal Justice Commission, offers cash rewards to any person who provides information that leads to the arrest of one of Texas’ 10 Most Wanted Fugitives or Sex Offenders. In 2022, DPS and other agencies arrested more than 70 people off the lists and a total of $88,000 in rewards was paid for tips that yielded arrests.

To be eligible for cash rewards, tipsters MUST provide information to authorities using one of the following methods:

•Call the Crime Stoppers hotline at 1-800-252-TIPS (8477).

•Submit a web tip through the DPS website by selecting the fugitive you have information about then clicking on the link under their picture.

•Submit a Facebook tip by clicking the “SUBMIT A TIP” link (under the “About” section).

All tips are anonymous — regardless of how they are submitted — and tipsters will be provided a tip number instead of using a name.

DPS investigators work with local law enforcement agencies to select fugitives for the Texas 10 Most Wanted Fugitives and Sex Offenders Lists. You can find the current lists — with photos — on the DPS website.

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Two arrested in woman’s murder

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SJCSO logo

By Tony Farkas

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COLDSPRING — An Onalaska woman’s murder on Dec. 28, 2022, has resulted in the arrest of a father and son on multiple felony charges.

San Jacinto County Sheriff Greg Capers said the department was notified just before noon on Wednesday about a deceased white female that was located in an abandoned mobile home the 100 block of Ellis Road in Coldspring.

The woman was identified as a Katelyn Michelle Brandon, 18, of Onalaska. Reports indicated there were 10 to 20 stab wounds on the body.

Capers said that after consulting with the San Jacinto County Assistant District Attorney Rob Freyer, it was decided to contact the Texas Rangers for assistance in processing the crime scene and the investigation.

Members of the San Jacinto County District Attorney’s Office, the Texas Rangers, the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office, the Onalaska Police Department and the Children’s Safe Harbor Advocacy, he said.

In less than two days, involving investigations in Onalaska, Cleveland and Coldspring, two suspects were arrested.

“During the investigation leading straight into the next day and after interviewing several witnesses to various portions of this particular gruesome crime, we have filed three charges on two suspects,” Capers said.

Thorin Brewster Keeprs, 28, of Cleveland, was charged with first-degree murder and tampering with or fabricating physical evidence, a third-degree felony. Capers said he is believed to have had a relationship with the victim for several years.

Also, Daniel W. Keepers, 50, of Cleveland, was charged with tampering with or fabricating physical evidence, a third-degree felony. Capers said he is the father of the first suspect.

The body of the victim was taken to the Harris County Medical Examiner’s Office in Houston for a complete autopsy.

Both suspects currently were being held at the San Jacinto County Jail.

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Residents asked to verify FCC map

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122922 service map

Special to the News-Times

LUFKIN — The Federal Communications Commission recently released a map showing what it believes are the types and speeds of internet service available to every household in Deep East Texas.

The map was built with information from the internet providers, including those in our region.

Rural leaders from throughout Texas have voiced concerns that the map exaggerates the actual service that is available to Texans, especially those in rural communities. There is a process for individual households and communities to challenge the map data, and the Deep East Texas Council of Governments is urging residents to look at the map and report inaccuracies.

DETCOG is working on a region-wide bulk challenge; however, the individual household challenges are an important part of this process.

The verification is important in that more than $40 billion from the federal government will soon be sent to states to expand internet connections. The new FCC map will determine how that money is allocated among the states, with funding allocated based on the number of unconnected homes on the map.

DETCOG’s goal is to help ensure the State of Texas receives its fair share of this funding. If only 1 percent of the map is inaccurate, 100,000 or more Texas homes could remain unserved. The problem is thought to be even greater in rural areas, where some estimates are that the inaccuracies may be as high as 25 percent.

In Deep East Texas that could equate to more than 31,000 homes.

The timeline to participate in the challenge process is short. The deadline for challenges is Jan. 13, 2023. The process requires household residents to review their addresses on the map and report, with evidence, any errors.

How to Submit a Challenge

To look at your residence on the map, go to: https://broadbandmap.fcc.gov/home. Households that do not have internet access can get help at your local library or use the wi-fi at a local fast-food restaurant. On the home page, you can place your address in the “search by address” window, which will show your location on the map. It will also show the internet providers at your home and the type of service each provides.

Once an address is entered, the map will zoom in and show what has been reported as available:

The Texas Broadband Development Office has also provided more details on how to submit a challenge at https://comptroller.texas.gov/programs/broadband/communities/maps/fcc/. As many who most need the service may not be able to get onto the internet to complete the task, you may contact DETCOG at (936) 634-2247 for help.

Challenges can be based on several basis, including that the provider denied a request for service, demanded excessive connection fees or failed to schedule an installation within 10 business days of a request. Once a challenge is filed, providers are required to review the challenge and either concede or dispute it within 60 days.

Reasons you can submit an availability challenge as described by the Texas Broadband Office include:

•Provider failed to schedule a service installation within 10 business days of a request.

•Provider did not install the service at the agreed-upon time.

•Provider requested more than the standard installation fee to connect this location.

•Provider denied the request for service.

•Provider does not offer the technology or service type at this location.

•Reported speed is not available for purchase.

•Subscribed speed is not achievable. (Individuals only can select this option (on the map), but it won’t create a challenge.)

•No wireless signal is available at this location.

•New, non-standard equipment is required to connect this location.

If one of the services listed is not actually offered to the selected location, or if the providers listed do not actually serve your location, you can submit an availability challenge.

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Two-semi crash causes injuries

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DPS troopers investigate the scene of a two-semi truck crash. Photo by Emily WootenDPS troopers investigate the scene of a two-semi truck crash. Photo by Emily Wooten

Special to the News-Times

SAN JACINTO COUNTY – The Texas Department of Public Safety Troopers investigated a crash involving two commercial motor vehicles on U.S. Highway 59, near the 453A exit, that occurred Friday.

The preliminary investigation indicates that at approximately 6:40 a.m., a 2020 Kenworth truck tractor semi-trailer was traveling south, followed by a 2023 Freightliner truck tractor semi-trailer.

Reports indicate the driver of the Freightliner failed to control his speed and struck the rear of the Kenworth. The Freightliner then left the road to the right and struck several trees in the west ditch while the Kenworth pulled to the shoulder of the road.

The driver of the Kenworth, 43-year-old Grover Colmon of Shreveport, La., was transported to CHI St. Luke’s Hospital for treatment.

The driver of the Freightliner, 41-year-old Ronald Waters of Ringgold, Ga., was transported to HCA-Cleveland for treatment.

Waters was cited for fail to control speed.

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