Arrest warrant issued for top Texas Democrat in drug possession case

The door to the office of state Rep. Poncho Nevárez (D-Eagle Pass) was locked Thursday morning.

In statements published by the AP and attributed to him, Nevárez said

The admission is about what was found at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport on September 6th. Nevárez had flown into the TXDOT Flight Center, east of Austin-Bergstrom's main terminal. Investigators say security cameras recorded video of Nevárez dropping an envelope as he got into an SUV. Two employees picked up that envelope and gave it to a trooper.  

According to court documents, the envelope contained four small plastic bags filled with cocaine. A Travis County judge on October 25th granted a request to collect a DNA sample from Nevárez as part of the investigation.

In the request for the search warrant, DPS CID Agent Otto Cabrera wrote: "It is reasonable to believe that Rep. Nevárez, using his own letterhead envelope, licked and sealed the envelope that contained the cocaine in order to keep it concealed." 

In a statement, state Rep. and House Democratic Party Caucus Chairman Chris Turner (D-Arlington) said:

Nevárez is currently the Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security and a ranking member of the Select Committee on mass violence, key assignments that those who spoke to FOX7 believe require a clear mind.

"I know about cocaine addiction because I was there myself at one time. I wouldn't want to be in a place in a position where I would have to make decisions for others,” said Glenn Towery who was visiting the Texas Capitol Thursday.

Nevárez announced earlier this month he would not run for re-election. Few people at the time knew he was under investigation.

Eric Cagle who was on a school tour at the Capitol with his daughter believes stepping down was the right decision.

"When you are under the influence of drugs that's really not a good thing, right, blurs your way of thinking,” said Cagle.

Nevárez's decision to not seek re-election came as a surprise because he has a reputation for not backing down from a fight. An example of that came during a recent session.

A fight on the House floor in 2017 took place with former state Rep. Mark Rinaldi (R-Irving) during a heated debate on sanctuary cities. Rinaldi claimed he had called ICE agents about protesters in the Chamber. Nevárez spoke to FOX7 after the altercation.

"Of course you don't want things like that to happen on the House floor, but guys like him think they can say anything they want without impunity and at some point, there is going to be repercussion and a reckoning, and I think he bears responsibility for that,” said Rep. Nevárez in 2017.

The type of reckoning that awaits Nevárez for what happened at the airport is a third-degree felony charge for drug possession.

An arrest warrant was issued Thursday afternoon. Bond was set at $10,000.

Officials at DPS are working with the Travis County District Attorney. It’s not known when the case will be sent to a grand jury. A conviction carries a jail sentence of to 10 years.