Assistant District Attorney Deborah Branch said Thursday that she prosecuted the case during the first trial presided over by new 36th District Judge Starr Bauer.
The defendant, Joey Luis Garcia, also known as José Luis Garcia, had been arrested on U.S. Highway 181 by Highway Patrol Trooper Kolton Kendall on Nov. 15, 2011.
Branch said the unusual factor in the case was that Garcia had not been tested for DWI and he had not been involved in an accident.
The entire case revolved around a cellular phone call made by a motorist who was following Garcia on the day of the offense.
The witness watched the defendant’s driving behavior for about two miles before making the call. He took the U.S. Highway 181 Business Route when he reached Beeville and Kendall made the traffic stop as the defendant continued on the 181 Bypass.
Branch said Garcia was defended by Three Rivers attorney Roger Bellows and attorney Gabriel Salais of Corpus Christi.
The jury was selected on Monday, testimony began on Tuesday and the jury returned its verdict on Wednesday.
Garcia then opted to have Bauer set punishment instead of allowing that to be determined by the jury.
Bauer pronounced the seven-year prison sentence and a $5,000 fine on Thursday.
Branch said the charge against Garcia normally is a third degree felony. But the charge was enhanced to a second degree felony because the defendant had a previous felony conviction on Aug. 15, 1996, on a charge of engaging in organized criminal activity.
The second degree felony conviction could have resulted in a 20-year prison sentence and a $10,000 fine.
Garcia’s previous DWI convictions were handed down on Aug. 27, 2003, and on June 7, 2006, both in Bee County.
Gary Kent is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 120, or at reporter@mySouTex.com.