No OUI charges for Texas DA candidate's husband

Drug paraphernalia was also found in vehicle; lack of breathalyzer, SFST, or blood draw cited by county atty.


By Jennifer Rios
San Angelo Standard-Times

SAN ANGELO, Texas  — Evidence against San Angelo businessman Vance Winston "Winn" Palmer Jr. wasn't strong enough to prove he was driving while intoxicated, according to the Tom Green County attorney. With no blood drawn, and no Breathalyzer or field sobriety test administered, Chris Taylor said his office couldn't prove the DWI, and Palmer, whose wife is now the Republican nominee for 51st District Attorney, will not be prosecuted on that charge.

"That's where I get my evidence to prosecute something," Taylor said. "I think the officers worked with what they had."

Taylor said his office, along with Palmer's attorney, Tip Hargrove, reviewed 12 hours of audio and visual recordings taken from patrol cars at the scene of the crash. He said Palmer was not visible in any of the videos, which made it impossible to observe if he appeared intoxicated.

Taylor said Palmer told at least one officer he had been drinking earlier in the day, but did not say when or how much.

Palmer, who is the general manager of Palmer Feed & Supply, is the husband of Allison Palmer, the first assistant district attorney for the 51st Judicial District Attorney and now the Republican nominee for DA. He was involved in a collision at North Bryant Boulevard and Seventh Street on March 21, and police suspected he was intoxicated. Officers also reported finding drug paraphernalia in Palmer's car.

Paraphernalia and other charges still may be filed, Taylor said.

The event created a minor crisis for Allison Palmer, who was in the middle of her primary election campaign. The election, which Palmer won, was held on Tuesday, and Taylor disclosed his decision against prosecuting Winn Palmer on Thursday.

Taylor said he hasn't been in contact with Allison Palmer or either of her opponents in the race, Nathan Butler and Andrew Graves, since the day of the crash.

"It happened after the election just because that was the way it happened," he said. After the crash, Palmer said she is against drunken driving whether it's a stranger or a loved one. She said her family and friends should be treated just like everyone else.

According to Texas Department of Public Safety records online, Winn Palmer has no prior convictions.

At the hospital after the crash, San Angelo police officer Benjamin Spencer said in his report, Palmer declined to give a blood specimen after being read the statutory warning. If a driver refuses to give a breath or blood specimen, a mandatory blood draw can be ordered, but only under certain circumstances, according to the Texas Transportation Code. One of those requirements is that someone other than the accused driver is seriously injured in the crash.

No one in the Palmer collision was seriously injured.

Taylor said his office issued a subpoena for Palmer's medical records, but that didn't help his case because the hospital didn't draw blood.

San Angelo police Lt. Les Bird said department protocol dictates that officers don't make an arrest at a hospital. In Palmer's case, a warrant was sought instead.

The investigating officer confiscated Palmer's driver's license and gave a temporary driving permit and a copy of the statutory warning to his wife, who was at the hospital.

San Angelo Police Chief Tim Vasquez said Texas Department of Public Safety troopers were called to the scene the day of the crash to review the police investigation.

Copyright 2012 San Angelo Standard-Times

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