Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell reportedly violated his own stay-at-home order by attending a family birthday party in the spring.
Gravell will plead guilty to a misdemeanor related to the episode and pay a $1,000 fine, the Austin American-Statesman reported Tuesday.
A criminal complaint about the incident prompted the appointment of a special prosecutor and an investigation by the Texas Rangers.
Gravell's attorney Bill Hines said his client is the only person in the county to be prosecuted for the order, and that the Rangers found no other wrongdoing, the Statesman reported.
Georgetown attorney Robert McCabe filed the complaint in April, accusing Gravell of violating his own stay-at-home order, as well as official oppression and abuse of official capacity.
A week earlier, on April 7, a Twitter account posted pictures it said were of Gravell arriving at a gathering, "driven by a deputy." Gravell was wearing a fireman's suit with a special breathing apparatus.
These photos provided by a very annoyed neighbor apparently, who is sick of the rules not applying to everybody. Is… https://t.co/pdRuzued6Y— Buddy Falcon (@Buddy Falcon) 1586289167.0
Williamson County residents expressed disapproval of the posted photos.
@buddy_falcon @BillGravell @SheriffChody This just keeps getting weirder and weirder. Smh 🙄 Hope he is held accountable.— Scott Phillip Lewis (@Scott Phillip Lewis) 1586304831.0
@buddy_falcon @BillGravell @SheriffChody This is wrong on so my level. @BillGravell You’re so out of touch with reality it’s scary God— Michael Novick (@Michael Novick) 1586291152.0
Williamson County Fire Chief Mark McAdams told KXAN Gravell borrowed the fire equipment as a COVID safety measure during his visit to his grandson's party.
County residents at the time were barred from gatherings, following Gravell's stay-at-home order that forbade residents from leaving their home except for essential business. The order was in effect from March 24 through April 30.
After Williamson County attorney Dee Hobbs recused himself from the case, the criminal complaint zigzagged through courts for nearly two months, as officials grappled with how to handle the investigation. The Texas Supreme Court ultimately decided to appoint Milam County District Attorney Bill Torrey as special prosecutor.
Earlier this month, amid a new surge in COVID cases, Gravell said he would not close the county with another stay-at-home order.
Gravell was sworn into office on the first day of the year in 2019. He previously had served as a Justice of the Peace from 2015 to 2018.
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Nicklaus Pereksta says he loves photographing enthusiastic people, and it’s why his latest gig offering pictures to people out on Lady Bird Lake’s hike and bike trail is going smoothly. He sets up his gear on the Pfluger pedestrian bridge and puts out a sign: Photos, $10.
“Overwhelmingly, this has been a really positive experience,” Pereksta said. “I get excited when I wake up in the morning and I can't wait to go to work.”
Bikers and joggers are excited about it too. On the pedestrian bridge leading to downtown Thursday morning, a man on an e-bike rode up and posed, wanting more photos.
“I posted the last pictures on Instagram and people loved it. They asked, ‘where is this guy?’” the biker told Pereksta. Bashfully, Pereksta, who also photographs landscapes and at weddings and other events, said he was happy to hear that.
Pereksta started these photos about a month ago, after the strenuous runs required in his valet job started causing pain in his legs. And though he has a passion for photography, he wasn’t so sure when he started working independently if it would work out.
He felt uncertain about the demand for it and was also worried about having lots of expensive equipment out in the open.
“Then like the first day was nothing but high praise and people are like, this is so awesome. This is great. I've never seen anything like this before. I was like, Wow, this was really good, like positive turnout. So I got encouraged.”
Now, he wants to expand and is thinking of contacting the Mueller Farmers Market about how to become a vendor. Still, he'll carry a connection to photographing on the bridge since the word bridge is related to his last name.
“It's a name my great, great, great grandfather came up with when he was marrying somebody. It's actually quite a romantic name. It means a joining of two bridges," Pereksta said. "So, I thought it was ironic that I'm set up on a bridge. I'm kind of representing my last name right now.”
Austonia talked to Pereksta about life in Austin, where he’s lived for eight years after living in Boston doing band photography.
What was your first experience with Austin?
I came here to visit some friends and they took me to Barbarella. So we went to Barbarella and I was like, ‘wow, this place is great.’ And then the restaurants and the food and going to Barton Springs. I was like, ‘this is amazing.’ Because there's nothing like that in Boston. If you want to go to a natural spring, you got to go to New Hampshire. There's no pools in the city at all. So there's lots of swimming out here.
What do you like best about Austin?
You go to any little quiet bar and there's a band playing that should be like onstage for a sold out show. Yeah, they're playing to 10 people, right? Like, one of the best bands ever and they're playing for 10 people, right? And just little magic moments like that are pretty fun. You just run into little random weird things.
What do you think makes Austin different from other places?
There’s no fall.
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