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State Rep. Poncho Nevárez Turns Himself In To Authorities After Dropping Envelope With Cocaine

Gov. Greg Abbott talks with state Reps. Kyle Biedermann, R-Fredricksburg (left) and Poncho Nevarez, D-Eagle Pass
Bob Daemmrich for The Texas Tribune
Gov. Greg Abbott talks with state Reps. Kyle Biedermann, R-Fredricksburg (left) and Poncho Nevarez, D-Eagle Pass, on the House floor in March.

State Rep. Poncho Nevárez, an Eagle Pass Democrat and House chairman, turned himself in to authorities to be booked on felony drug possession charges Thursday evening and was released after posting his bond of $10,000, according to both the lawmaker and the Texas Department of Public Safety.

"I did," Nevárez said in a text message Friday to The Texas Tribune. "Last night in Maverick County."

A statement from DPS said the investigation involving Nevárez "remains active and no further information is available at this time."

Nevárez arrived for booking hours after authorities issued a warrant for his arrest. That arrest warrant cited surveillance footage of the lawmaker in September dropping an envelope with cocaine as he was leaving the Austin airport.

Before the warrant was issued, Nevárez, chairman of the Homeland Security & Public Safety Committee, confirmed to the Tribune in a statement that the “news is true” — and that the events detailed prompted his recent announcement to not seek reelection.

"I do not have anyone to blame but myself," Nevárez said. Nevárez also mentioned he plans to seek treatment.

The lawmaker faces a charge of third-degree felony possession of a controlled substance. That carries a maximum punishment of 10 years in prison.

Before Thursday's arrest warrant was issued, an affidavit detailing the circumstances involving Nevárez surfaced. A copy was posted online late Wednesday by the conservative activist group Direct Action Texas. The Tribune confirmed its contents Thursday morning.

That affidavit, filed Oct. 29 in Travis County by DPS, stated that, on Sept. 6, surveillance footage showed Nevárez exiting an area of Austin-Bergstrom International Airport used by traveling state officials. Nevárez then entered a black SUV owned by his chief of staff and dropped "a white paper object," the affidavit said. The envelope, according to the document, had Nevárez's official House seal on it and contained "four small baggies." The total weight of the contents, according to the affidavit, was roughly 2 grams.

Last week, Nevárez had two unexpected announcements that took even his colleagues by surprise. On Nov. 6, he announced his office would deactivate its Facebook page — but provided no exact reason for the move. Two days later, Nevárez announced he would not seek reelection in 2020.

Nevárez, an attorney in Eagle Pass, also serves as vice chair of a select committee that state leaders formed two months ago in response to the deadly shootings in El Paso and Odessa.

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