Attorneys for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton say outgoing state Rep. Rene Oliveira can keep the results of his DWI blood test a secret until his case is decided.
The attorney general notified the Cameron County District Attorney’s Office of its ruling in response to a Texas Public Information Act request for the results, filed in late June by The Brownsville Herald.
During an initial hearing Aug. 16, Olivieira, 63, pleaded not guilty to driving with a blood alcohol content greater than 0.15 percent, which is nearly twice the legal limit in Texas. Brownsville police officers arrested Oliveira and charged him with DWI after he left the scene of a crash on April 28 in Brownsville.
Assistant District Attorney Rehaman Merchant said in court Oliveira allegedly had a high blood alcohol content and drugs in his system, according to The Herald.
Attorneys for the district attorney’s office declined to provide details about what Merchant had said in the open hearing, claiming its ongoing prosecution of Oliveira, the same reason the AG’s office gave for allowing them to keep Oliveira’s blood test results a secret.
“That’s not unusual,” Houston attorney Joe Larsen, a noted open records authority, told The Texas Monitor Friday. “It’s discretionary. Once it’s admitted into evidence, even if Oliveira were to plead out, it becomes a matter of public record.”
Oliveira, D-Brownsville, remains free on a $2,500 bail as he finishes his 13th consecutive two-year term representing District 37 in the Texas House. Oliveira was first elected to the House in 1981, served three terms before he lost in a bid for the state Senate and was elected to the House again in 1990. He ranks fifth in House seniority.
On May 22, less than a month after Oliveira’s arrest for DWI, Alex Dominguez, a member of the Cameron County Commissioners Court, defeated Oliveira in a Democratic primary runoff, 3,287 to 2,509 votes. Dominguez is unopposed in the Nov. 6 general election.
“Thirty-four years as a public servant was grueling,” Oliveira told The Brownsville Herald on the night of the runoff, “but I loved it, and I’m grateful the people gave me the opportunity to serve that long.”
During those years, Oliveira gained a reputation for his spending on alcohol, according to an investigation by The Texas Monitor.
The Texas Monitor series, Living Large, found that Oliveira had spent $37,208 in campaign funds at liquor stores since 2003, at least $16,105 of it at liquor stores between 2007 and 2016. He spent $15,352 of the total at one Brownsville liquor store, Feldman’s.
Oliveira also had spent $60,185 at Cobbleheads Bar & Grill in Brownsville since 2003, according to the campaign expenditure records.
When officers went to his home, Oliveira acknowledged that he had had a “few” drinks and dinner, according to the police report. His eyes were bloodshot and glassy, his pupils dilated, the report said.
Oliveira at first denied having been involved in a crash, although the front end of his car was damaged and two tires were flat, the report said. The legislator refused to submit to a field sobriety test and declined to voluntarily provide officers with a blood sample, the report said. Police obtained an order for the blood to be taken.
In spite of the denials, Oliveira issued a statement to The Brownsville Herald:
“Last night I made a mistake in judgement, and thankfully, no one was injured. I sincerely apologize to my family, friends, colleagues, and most especially to my supporters. I am embarrassed, but grateful no one was hurt.”
Mark Lisheron can be reached at [email protected].