AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas Department of Public Safety is revealing details behind its April investigation into claims made by a female Capitol staffer that she and another colleague were drugged by a lobbyist while out at an Austin club.
While the investigation ultimately concluded no crime had occurred, the DPS investigation file behind the claim is being released — and details include a web of missing memories, differing recollections and COVID-19 vaccinations.
KXAN is not naming those involved in the investigation, because no one was charged. Charges for the staffers weren’t mentioned by DPS either.
According to the investigation, Staffer #1 says on April 1, she [Staffer #1] and another female staffer [Staffer #2] went out with lobbyists from HillCo Partners to The Austin Club downtown. Staffer #1 says after being served drinks she and Staffer #2 hadn’t ordered, she (Staffer #1) began to feel intoxicated and eventually blacked out.
Staffer #1 told police she believed one of the lobbyists —or the club bartender in collaboration with the lobbyists — drugged her and Staffer #2’s drinks. She reported she made it home with the help of a different coworker and woke up the next morning extremely ill and believed herself to have been drugged. The hospital she says she went to, however, didn’t have the ability to test for these drugs.
Medical staff, according to the investigation, told Staffer #1 if she’d been slipped the drug, her signs would be indicative of an overdose. Investigators cite parts of the victim’s story were inconsistent and “much, if not all” of her account of the night was reconstructed to her by others.
When Staffer #1 contacted her colleague, she claims Staffer #2 said she’d gone to the hospital and tested positive for gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB), a date-rape drug. However, during the investigation, a nurse manager at the emergency center Staffer #2 had gone to told investigators she couldn’t have tested positive for GHB, because they don’t test for it there. Staffer #2’s boyfriend also told investigators he drove her to a clinic to get a drug test, where she later sent a text message saying she’d tested positive for GHB. Investigators saw a screenshot of this text.
When she was interviewed, Staffer #2 said she’d been drugged, but elsewhere, she reportedly contradicted “most” information from Staffer #1 — including saying they’d gone to the hospital together. The interviewer also says he found her to be trying to allude to the lobbyist having a bad reputation. The interviewer said he ultimately found Staffer #2 to be “very deceptive.”
During the investigation, the bartender from The Austin Club was interviewed. While the bartender remembered the day and the two women, she told investigators nothing had been put in, and she did not have any prior relationship with the lobbyists.
Additionally, investigators say surveillance footage from a parking garage did not indicate abnormal behavior from either of the women. Witnesses of the night’s events also said nothing seemed suspicious about the night.
What did come to light, investigators say, was that Staffer #2 had gone home with a male colleagues and stayed the night. She says she woke up fully clothed, and no allegations of any sort of sexual assault were ever made, however, investigators say she kept trying to divert them away from questioning her boyfriend about the incident, and they believe this is why.
Next, when investigators informed Staffer #1 about Staffer #2’s contradictory comments, Staffer #1 agreed the whole thing had likely been a cover by Staffer #2 — to cover up a possible infidelity, investigators write.
When investigators followed up with the Male Colleague, the man also gave a surprising answer about whether or not he and Staffer #2 had had sexual relations — not only had they had consensual sex, he said the two had been in a relationship for about a month. He said he was led to believe her previous relationship was “over and done with.”
Staffer #1 recanted all allegations and reportedly said, “I feel like she [Staffer #2] made up a story… there’s a dude suffering right now and how she [Staffer #2] doesn’t feel guilty about that, I have no idea… I’ve still been a victim in this and I’ve still felt bad for that man, my heart breaks for him and his family and to make up a story like that and let this happen… I don’t think I would have filed anything if I would’ve known from the beginning it wasn’t what I thought it was.”
Staffer #1 then told the investigator she didn’t think there was any reason to continue investigating.
The investigation concluded Staffer #2 went home with the Male Colleague, and the two had consensual sex — which investigators say is proven with digital evidence, as the next morning Staffer #2 texted #1 and asked for helping “with a cover story.”
COVID-19 vaccination symptoms?
During the investigation, it was discovered both Staffer #1 and #2 had received their first doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.
Then, investigators say both staffers consumed a minimum of two mixed drinks, which would include three vodka shots. This would have happened in a three-hour window. According to investigators, Staffer #1 is 5’0″ and weighs 120 pounds, which would have made it easy for her to become very intoxicated.
Staffer #2 also reportedly texted #1 to ask: “Do you think drinking on the vaccine f—-d us?”
The Male Colleague told investigators Staffer #2 had also chalked up her condition the next morning to mixing alcohol with getting a vaccine. “She never insinuated to anything for me to think that something nefarious was going on,” he said.
Investigators and medical services professionals who were consulted say none of the symptoms described by Staffer #1 are consistent with date-rape drug.
While there is no standard recommendation on if you should drink alcohol after getting a COVID-19 vaccine, medical professionals say if you happen to develop symptoms from the COVID-19 vaccine, it could make getting intoxicated or a hangover more extreme.
The Lobbyist responds
Investigators spoke to the Lobbyist during the investigation, where he gave his account of the evening. The Lobbyist’s attorneys identified him to KXAN as Rick Dennis on Wednesday.
According to the investigation, Dennis said the two staffers were drinking heavily and quickly at the bar, “finishing a round every 10-12 minutes.” He also said he noticed throughout the night Staffer #2 and Male Colleague were “very comfortable” with each other, and he saw the man give her a “peck” on the forehead and cheek.
Dennis said given how comfortable the two seemed together, he saw no issue with Male Colleague helping get Staffer #2 home. He said while everyone, including himself, had been intoxicated that night, he’d seen no behavior that was alarming. Investigators say Dennis’ accounts and receipts from that night corroborate other media evidence collected.
Texas DPS and the Travis County District Attorney’s Office released a joint statement April 29 at the conclusion of the investigation, which the District Attorney’s Office said still stands now: “DPS has conducted a thorough investigation following allegations of drugging of a Capitol staffer by a lobbyist. Together, we have concluded that there is not enough evidence to support these allegations and that criminal charges are not appropriate. No crime occurred in this instance.”
Dennis’ attorneys, David and Perry Minton, told KXAN Wednesday they want their client’s name released, to show he was not charged for a crime.
“The Department of Public Safety’s Official Offense Report makes clear that Rick Dennis was falsely accused by a Texas Capitol staffer that lied to DPS Investigators. This Capitol staffer’s scheme to deliberately deceive law enforcement clearly meets the elements of False Report under the Texas Penal Code,” their statement read, in part.
Additionally, the attorneys asked the Travis County DA to revise its joint statement from April 29, saying it casted doubt on Dennis’ innocence by mentioning “women’s issues.”
After explaining no crime had occurred, the original joint statement from the DA and DPS said, in part, “recent events have amplified the conversation in our community that women should have the right to feel safe at all times. We are committed to continuing this conversation with the firm belief that women should be safe at home, at the workplace, and anywhere else they choose to be.”
“That discussion had no place in the Press Release and, in fact, was further misleading as to the facts and outcome of the investigation,” the attorneys’ statement went on to read in response.
Dennis’ attorneys say they support movements surrounding race, gender and religion, and that not opening an investigation into the staffers’ alleged lies to law enforcement degrades those movements.
“Failing to protect anyone — is a threat to everyone,” they said.
Although DPS found no crime had occurred in this incident, Julie Young, who is the committee director for the House Juvenile Justice & Family Issues Committee, issued a statement about Dennis, accusing him of sexual harassment in 2015.
“I want to be absolutely clear – Mr. Dennis was a predator to staffers during his time in Rep. Tan Parker’s office and continued to be during his time at HillCo,” the statement read in part.
“Any call of concern for him only falls on deaf ears to those of us in the Capitol community who have been made victims of his abusive and harassing behavior for years. If we continue to ignore his behavior, we are condoning him and dismissing the staffers who have suffered,” the statement went on to read.
In response, Dennis’ attorneys called the accusations “false, defamatory, hearsay statements — of unsourced and alleged inappropriate comments from his past,” and a ploy to “justify the story that he deserves this somehow.”