Tejano star Emilio enters guilty plea

March 13, 2009 5:11:38 PM PDT
Tejano music star Emilio Navaira will spend three days in jail and serve two years' probation after pleading guilty Friday to driving while intoxicated when he wrecked his tour bus in suburban Houston last year. [SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

The Grammy winner, wearing a white protective helmet for his head injuries nearly a year after the accident, could be seen shaking while he waited in court to enter his plea. Accompanied by his wife, Maria, the singer spoke very little during the hearing.

The plea deal came just a week after prosecutors filed the misdemeanor DWI charge against Navaira.

"In (pleading guilty) I hope to begin the process of putting this criminal case behind me and restoring my life. I accept full responsibility for my actions and the consequences of those actions from the accident," Navaira said in a statement.

Navaira, known to his fans as Emilio, did not speak with reporters after his court hearing.

Navaira suffered significant brain trauma when he rammed the bus into freeway barrels, throwing him through the windshield. He is still missing part of his skull, and doctors also had to repair an aneurysm in his right lung.

Because of his extensive injuries, Navaira won't spend the required 30 days in custody until next year, prosecutor Warren Diepraam said. The singer will serve three days in the Harris County Jail starting March 23, 2010, the prosecutor said. Another 27 days of house arrest will be served sometime after that.

Diepraam said a one-year jail sentence was suspended, resulting in the probation term. If Navaira violates terms of his parole, he would have to serve the one-year sentence, the maximum for such a charge.

This was the third DWI charge for Navaira and his second conviction. In June 2001, the San Antonio man was convicted in Bexar County. At the time of the bus wreck, Navaira was out on bond for another DWI charge from Bexar County that is still pending.

Navaira's attorneys said the singer is still fragile, at risk of seizures and can sometimes get easily confused. They said he knows he has made mistakes.

"He's paid a tremendous price for his actions," said Rudy Vasquez, one of Navaira's attorneys. "It has altered his life, and I can promise you he has learned his lesson."

Navaira is set to have surgery to insert a plate to replace the missing portions of his skull in the coming weeks. Although Navaira's recovery still has a long way to go, Vasquez said he expects Navaira will sing again.

"Please keep me in your prayers as I continue the long process of recovery," Navaira told his fans, whom he thanked for their support.

Although several bandmates who suffered less-serious injuries in the crash have filed lawsuits against the singer, Diepraam said none wanted to cooperate during the investigation. He called that "quite unusual."

Navaira will also have to pay a $4,000 fine and perform 200 hours of community service through speeches at schools on the dangers of drinking and driving. He will do public service announcements and have his license suspended. He's not supposed to drink alcohol for the next two years and will be subject to random urine testing.

The singer will also wear an electric monitoring device and a SCRAM device, an ankle bracelet that measures a person's blood alcohol level through perspiration samples.

Authorities say Navaira had a blood alcohol level of 0.19, more than twice the legal limit for driving, when he wrecked his bus on a freeway in Bellaire during the early morning hours of March 23, 2008.

Police said Navaira wasn't licensed to drive the 26,000-pound bus.

Navaira has released more than a dozen albums with his band. He won a Grammy for best Tejano album in 2003 with "Acuerdate."

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