PolitiFact: Old claim about O’Rourke’s arrests still stands


Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas has said that in younger days he was twice arrested in his hometown of El Paso — once, he says, for leaping a college campus fence and the other time for driving while intoxicated.

Readers have asked us whether the third-term congressman challenging Republican Sen. Ted Cruz has a criminal history. We decided to fact-check a widely circulated mention of the arrests from a 2012 campaign ad against O’Rourke. A screenshot from the ad continues to circulate six years later now that O’Rourke is running for U.S. Senate.

The ad was run by then-U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-El Paso, as he unsuccessfully tried to fend off a Democratic primary challenge from O’Rourke.

In the ad, O’Rourke’s mugshot appears next to text stating that the “facts” are that O’Rourke has a “criminal record” including burglary and DWI. The ad’s narrator says O’Rourke “has a criminal record that includes DWI and burglary arrests.”

That he does, we confirmed. O’Rourke has acknowledged as much since his first run for office.

We got our own fix on the facts by seeking documentation of the DWI arrest through a public information request to the El Paso Police Department. Martin Rodriguez, a department records specialist, said the agency had no responsive records. We similarly queried the University of Texas at El Paso about the campus arrest and didn’t hear back.

We also ran a background check of O’Rourke using the LexisNexis service. According to the results, O’Rourke’s May 1995 misdemeanor charge from the UTEP campus incident was later declined, and his September 1998 misdemeanor DWI arrest in El Paso ended up being dismissed.

That led us to an El Paso County record stating that O’Rourke was initially arrested in May 1995 and that the case was disposed of in February 1996. We saw, too, that after the DWI arrest, according to another county record, O’Rourke was referred to a misdemeanor diversion program in March 1999 and completed “DWI school” in May 1999. That document’s last entry, dated Oct. 20, 1999, says: “Misdemeanor diversion completed successfully.”

When we sought detail from O’Rourke spokesman Chris Evans, he said that O’Rourke had consistently addressed his arrests, notably during campaign stops in Paris, Sunnyside, San Antonio and Houston, where video shows O’Rourke telling a group in August that he spent a night in the El Paso County Jail after what he referred to as his 1995 arrest for criminal trespass.

In video of a campaign stop in San Antonio, a resident told O’Rourke she’d seen what someone described as his mug shot. O’Rourke replied: “More than 20 years ago, I was arrested — not once, but twice. So you should know that and we should all own that, if asked.” O’Rourke specified that he’d been arrested for attempting to hop a fence at UTEP and later, he said, for a “far more serious mistake: I drove under the influence of alcohol. There’s no justifying that.”

The oldest published account of the arrests appears to be an April 2005 El Paso Times news story about O’Rourke’s successful run for an El Paso City Council seat. When asked about the DWI arrest, O’Rourke told the Times then, “I’ve been open about that since the very beginning. I have owned up to it and I have taken responsibility for it.”

The Times further reported that court records showed that O’Rourke earlier was arrested in 1995 at UTEP on a burglary of building charge, which was later dropped. O’Rourke told the paper: “That happened while I was in college. I along with some friends were horsing around, and we snuck under the fence at the UTEP physical plant and set off an alarm. We were arrested by UTEP police. … UTEP decided not to press charges. We weren’t intending to do any harm.”

O’Rourke’s campaign later provided a photo of a document Evans described by email as the original UTEP police report on O’Rourke’s arrest there. It says O’Rourke and two other students were arrested at the university’s Physical Plant under the “burglary” portion of the state penal code, section 30.02, for “attempted forcible entry.”

Our ruling:

A 2012 TV ad still viewable online six years later said O’Rourke “has a criminal record that includes DWI and burglary arrests.”

O’Rourke’s comments and records indicate that UTEP police arrested O’Rourke in 1995 for burglary, a misdemeanor charge disposed of the next year. In 1998, El Paso police arrested O’Rourke for DWI, a misdemeanor charge that was dismissed after he completed “DWI school” the next year.

We rate the claim True.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Texas News & Politics

Community news: Council candidate forums Thursday night

TRAVIS COUNTY EAST AUSTIN Council candidate forums Thursday The city of Austin, in partnership with the city’s Ethics Review Commission and the League of Women Voters - Austin Area, is conducting a series of City Council candidate forums for the November municipal election. The next forums will be Thursday at the South Austin Senior Activity...
Austin man accused of threatening Taylor Swift was Eanes ISD bus driver, district says
Austin man accused of threatening Taylor Swift was Eanes ISD bus driver, district says

An Austin man accused of writing threatening letters to pop star Taylor Swift was working as a bus driver in the Eanes school district as recently as this year and in 2012, district officials said in a letter to parents and staff. Eric Swarbrick, 26, was charged on Sept. 20 with interstate stalking and instate communications with the intent to threaten...
Average Travis County tax bill to go up by $32 under new budget
Average Travis County tax bill to go up by $32 under new budget

The average homeowner will pay about $32 more to Travis County than last year after county commissioners on Tuesday approved a $1.09 billion budget and a tax rate of 35.42 cents per $100 of taxable value. While the county’s tax rate is lower than last year’s rate of 36.90 cents, it’s higher than the 34.12-cent tax rate that the county...
Cody Wilson replaced as director of 3D-printed gun company Defense Distributed 
Cody Wilson replaced as director of 3D-printed gun company Defense Distributed 

11 a.m. update: Cody Wilson has quit as CEO of the 3D-printed gun company Defense Distributed after recent sexual assault charges filed against him. During a news conference on Tuesday, Paloma Heindorff, the company’s vice president of operations, said Wilson tendered his resignation on Friday evening, and that he will have no role in the company...
‘Ben is Back,’ ‘Widows,” ‘Green Book’ to play Austin Film Festival
‘Ben is Back,’ ‘Widows,” ‘Green Book’ to play Austin Film Festival

Julia Roberts! Mahershala Ali! Mickey Rourke! Carey Mulligan! And Willie Nelson! No, it’s not the cast of the New New New Hollywood Squares (“I’ll take the Red Headed Stranger to block”). These are just a few of the stars in movies playing this year’s Austin Film Festival, which announced its full slate Tuesday. Here are...
More Stories