No charges yet in Emilio bus crash

September 30, 2008 6:25:19 PM PDT
It has been six months since famed Tejano singer Emilio Navaira was involved in a crash that nearly killed him and his band mates. Despite police saying he was legally drunk while behind the wheel, Navaira still has yet to face any charges.The Grammy award winning singer has spent the last several months trying to recover. He suffered serious brain injuries after he crashed his tour bus early Easter morning in March. It happened on the West Loop/Southwest Freeway interchange.

Bellaire police say he was drunk behind the wheel. So why are there still no charges? The case may not be as cut and dried as it appears.

A mangled tour bus, several serious injuries and a driver whose blood alcohol measured more than twice the legal limit, according to police -- all the makings of a slam dunk case for prosecutors? Maybe not.

Assistant Harris County District Attorney Warren Diepraam said, "This is probably the most complex investigation that I've seen in a long time."

Diepraam could not comment on his office's current investigation of Emilio Navaira. But he did explain why the case against the Tejano music star has not yet resulted in charges.

"It's a highly, highly complex case with all sorts of issues," Diepraam explained. "We've got alcohol results. We've got wheel witness issues. We've got commercial motor vehicle issues."

Wheel witness means someone who can actually testify he or she saw Navaira driving the bus. Houston attorney Ricky Raven considers that a critical piece to a successful prosecution.

"That's what you have to prove," Raven said. "You have to prove a person was operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol."

The DA can charge Navaira with either misdemeanor or felony DWI. Another issue that may be delaying charges is the Tejano singer's health. He suffered serious brain injuries and has had several brain surgeries since the crash and he just may not be healthy enough to stand trial.

"The law requires that a defendant be of a sound enough mind and body, if you will, that he would be able to assist his lawyer in the preparation of his defense," Raven explained.

Diepraam says one issue the DA's office is not struggling with is Navaira's celebrity.

"Emilio is no different," promised Diepraam. "Anybody that we feel we have probable cause to file on and to prevail on, we will do that."

Navaira has hired a local lawyer Paul Doyle to represent him. Doyle used to work in the DA's office but left for private practice. He would not comment on the case today.

The Harris County DA has two years from the date of accident to file a charge. At last word Navaira was being treated in San Antonio rehabilitation facility.

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