After losing three rounds in the state courts, country music star Randy Travis asked a federal court to block the public release of a police video showing his 2012 arrest for driving while intoxicated.
Travis’ lawsuit, filed Sunday in Austin federal court, asked U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks to block the video’s release, arguing that making it public under the state’s open records laws would violate federal disability and medical privacy laws.
The case revolves around dashboard camera footage taken when Department of Public Safety troopers — called to a one-car wreck outside of Tioga, a town about 60 miles north of Dallas where Travis lived — found the singer naked and lying in the road. He later pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated after tests found he had a blood-alcohol level of 0.21, more than double the legal limit to drive.
Afterward, copies of the arrest video were requested under the Texas Public Information Act. Travis objected, but then-Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office said state law required the video to be made public, although images of Travis’ unclothed body had to be redacted from the waist down.
A Travis County district court agreed with Abbott, as did the 3rd Court of Appeals, which last year said the taped encounter with law officers didn’t fall within the state law’s medical exemptions and that privacy protections don’t normally apply to actions taken in a public place.
The Texas Supreme Court upheld that ruling when it rejected Travis’ appeal, without comment, in June.
With his options in state courts exhausted, Travis turned to the federal courts, arguing that on the night of his arrest he had been exhausted after recently ending a six-month tour, had several glasses of wine and may have inadvertently taken prescription medication.
Troopers responding to the crash found Travis to be disoriented, volatile and erratic; unaware of his nudity, he tried to bless officers, then prayed for their deaths. After his release on bond, the lawsuit said, Travis was treated for a concussion at a hospital.
Almost a year later, a stroke left Travis with impaired speech and difficulty walking, the lawsuit said.
Travis’ lawyer, Marty Cirkiel of Round Rock, argued that releasing the video would amount to the public disclosure of Travis’ private medical and mental health conditions.
While most of the details of Travis’ arrest are well known, “what is not known, and should remain private, are how his compromised medical condition and mental state affected his physical actions, mannerisms and words,” the lawsuit said.
“The (ordered) release of such highly embarrassing information to the media was inappropriate in light of the fact he can no longer speak cogently and is not even in the position to discuss, let alone defend, his previous actions,” the lawsuit said.