San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

December 28th, 2009
DA’s office stands behind Monroe plea bargain

by SEAN KIMMONS

Despite incriminating evidence that a police camera recorded of Texas Longhorn running back D.J. Monroe’s driving while intoxicated arrest, the Hays County District Attorney’s Office is standing by its decision to drop the DWI charge.

On Dec. 18, Monroe accepted a plea agreement for the less stigmatized charge of obstruction of a passageway with deferred adjudication. Both charges are Class B misdemeanors, Hays County Assistant District Attorney Fred Weber stressed on Monday.

The district attorney’s office defended the move, saying that it would help keep the 20-year-old redshirt freshman’s scholarship intact.

“With Mr. Monroe we faced two choices. A plea to a DWI where he would be on probation and more than likely lose a chance at a college education at the University of Texas or a plea to Obstructing a Highway where he would be on probation and be allowed the opportunity to complete his education,” Weber wrote in an e-mail.

“In the long run I sincerely believe we made the correct choice,” Weber added. “He received no more or no less consideration than any other young person charged with the same crime. The only difference is that he is a football player and it made the newspaper.”

Weber also denied that the plea deal had anything to do with Monroe being a Texas football player or the upcoming championship game.

“It has absolutely nothing to do with his status as a football player,” he said. “It has everything to do with his chances of obtaining his college education.”

Under the plea agreement, Monroe will be on one-year probation. If he violates his probation, he could face jail time, Weber said.

“It is quite common for us (and other jurisdictions across the state) to resolve first offense DWI cases with this exact same plea agreement,” Weber said. “Sometimes we do it because we have a weak case. Other times we do it simply because it is the right thing under a certain set of circumstances.”

If the case had gone to trial, Sgt. James Brawner, of the Brazoria County Sheriff’s Office, would have been a character witness for Monroe. Brawner befriended Monroe, who is originally from Angleton in Brazoria County, while he was in high school.

Brawner became Monroe’s mentor and said that the video of his DWI arrest didn’t show anything out of the ordinary about Monroe.

“To me, it didn’t look like anything other than normal D.J.,” he said. “He’s just a nervous person.”

As for the vomiting in the back of the patrol car, Brawner said that he knows of several occasions when Monroe threw up due to his nervousness.

At a press conference last week, Texas football coach Mack Brown announced that Monroe would be reinstated.

“What I told him is I didn’t like what he did, but I do think he’s paid the penalty,” he said. “I wanted him to learn from it and be more accountable, but he’s been practicing with our team every day. He has not missed anything, and he’s had a great attitude since his incident.

“And if he practices well enough, we’ll play him in the game,” Brown added. “We’re not punishing him anymore.”

Sean Kimmons is senior reporter at the Hays Free Press where this story was originally published. It is reprinted here through a news partnership with the San Marcos Mercury.

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8 thoughts on “DA’s office stands behind Monroe plea bargain

  1. Are we to expect the three stories everytime a kid obstructs the roadway? The only special treatment this kid is getting is from your media outlet.

  2. John, I take your point and it isn’t particularly interesting to me, personally. However, we’ve received literally tens of thousands of visits to these stories. As business people, we try to give the people what they want — as you do in your business. I figure this is the last one though — there isn’t a whole lot left to say.

  3. I think this is an important story. It goes to the heart of education and the standards to which these role models for our youth are held. I don’t know if this young man received special treatment or not. But the media has a responsibility to report the news, and this certainly is news. The Mercury or Free Press could do a great public service by taking this one step further by looking into the records of other DUI suspects and assessing whether what the DA is telling you is factual. Just reporting what the talking heads say isn’t worth much without that investigation.

  4. Brad, there is a line between giving the people what they want and turning into a celebrity gossip rag. I suspect your stories on this issue drove business because other media outlets did not see any news in the story. I will give you that the DA angle could be newsworthy in Hays County, but only your last story sought their reaction and the views of anyone with a relationship to the kid upon whose name you were profiting.
    As a reader, I am interested in the focus and journalism ethics of outlets I frequent. If editorial decisions are made solely from a business vantage, then news becomes entertainment and we are stuck with only “news reports” about Tiger Woods, Carley Anthony, manufactured stories sold to outlets for money (like baloon boy, WH party crashers and the Goldman reunion), and commentary will be nothing beyond polar opposite shouting matches. Oh wait…
    I do not know why my reaction “isn’t very interesting” to you, but if your sole mission is to drive hits, then I will give you less of them in the future.

  5. I was referring to the story not being interesting to me, not your comment. I agree to a degree with your comments, but it isn’t true that no one else covered the story. I know for a fact that KVUE did because they sought and received permission to use our video; there may have been others. I don’t know.

  6. The story is that a 20 year old (not of legal drinking age) who was obvioulsy under the influence, got a sweet heart deal, and the DA’s response is essentially ‘we do it all the time’ Really? It goes back a while but I know of other students who did not get that option. I’ll wager some local lawyers would say the same thing. If it’s really the DA’s policy, please release a list of those offered this option.

  7. I think it would be newsworthy, if the DA was in the habit of throwing out DWI charges, particularly given how expensive, time-consuming and potentially dangerous the arrests can be. If this is the norm, as Mr. Weber indicates, then there is a real story here, but it has nothing to do with UT football.

    Otherwise, there really is no story. The percentage of Hays County arrests which involve UT football players has to be staggeringly low. I am more concerned with how the lion’s share of the arrests are handled.

    I did enjoy the threads being hijacked for a period, though. I needed a break anyway.

  8. With all of the mike Leach stuff going on, I am wondering how Mack Brown could afford to let Monroe play and justify it. If we can convict Leach before he has a trial, then how do we let an underage kid, who has been drinking and driving, with video proof get away with no penalty?
    If I agree that the D.A. was concerned about his schooling then how about making part of this giveway be based on not playing in the National Championship game. What would that hurt? Looks like Mack Brown has better money behind him than Leach did. Politics is abundant everywhere but where it needs to be.
    Another sad story and another give away for sports.
    Steve

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