Texas lawmaker denies sending explicit texts to grad student

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Attorneys for a Texas state senator said Wednesday that he didn’t send “any inappropriate texts” following a report that the University of Texas is investigating allegations made by a graduate student.

Republican state Sen. Charles Schwertner has denied allegations reported by the Austin American-Statesman that he sent a sexually explicit text message to a student he met this summer during an on-campus event. The report was based on unnamed university sources, and the accuser was not identified.

On Wednesday, two Austin attorneys hired by Schwertner made another denial of the allegations and said they were in contact with the university.

“We have spent hours with Senator Schwertner and others regarding these claims. Senator Schwertner did not send any inappropriate texts as alleged. Period,” attorneys Perry and David Minton said in a statement. “The Senator is devastated over these allegations and is concerned for the unnamed victim.”

University spokesman Gary Susswein said the school doesn’t discuss ongoing investigations and couldn’t confirm the newspaper report.

The newspaper cites three “senior UT officials with knowledge of the investigation.” According to the newspaper, two of the officials said the student and Schwertner began exchanging messages after she told him at the event that she was interested in working at the Legislature.

The student reported Schwertner to the university after he allegedly sent her a sexually explicit text, officials told the newspaper. The report cites a school official who had seen the exchange and a photo. The newspaper said it had not seen the photo.

Schwertner, 48, was first elected to the Texas Legislature in 2010 and is up for re-election in November. He was appointed chairman of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee by Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who said he was “deeply concerned about the serious allegations.”

He also expressed displeasure at university officials speaking to the newspaper and “potentially jeopardizing the integrity of a serious investigation.” Patrick, a Republican, said the Senate would await the conclusion of the school investigation.

Like many statehouses across the country, the Texas Legislature recently strengthened sexual harassment policies amid a mounting nationwide backlash against misbehavior by those in power. Last year, the longtime secretary of the Texas Senate testified that she had never received a sexual harassment complaint against a lawmaker.

Republican state Sen. Lois Kolkhort said at the time that the former policies were so ambiguous that even she would have been hesitant to come forward with a complaint.

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