Tuesday, 02/20/07
Sen. Cooper intoxicated, speeding, THP charges
Lawmaker hurt in Feb. 7 wreck

Staff Writer

State Sen. Jerry Cooper was legally drunk when he rolled his sport-utility vehicle on Interstate 24 earlier this month after attending three legislative receptions, the Tennessee Highway Patrol said Tuesday.

The Democrat from Morrison, 58, who was already free on bail on federal fraud charges, was charged with drunken driving and speeding in connection with the Feb. 7 one-vehicle wreck in Rutherford County.

As for how drunk he was, the THP wasn’t saying Tuesday. A spokesman refused to disclose details of the charges, including the senator’s blood-alcohol level and the estimated speed of his vehicle.

“Until it’s been served, we cannot release the warrant,” said Mike Browning, spokesman for the THP.

The legal threshold for drunkenness in Tennessee is 0.08.

Cooper was seriously injured in the wreck and is convalescing at home from rib fractures, a concussion and a severe arm injury. He will be arrested or required to turn himself in “when he is physically able,” according to the THP statement.

Last week, Cooper’s doctor said the senator would need months to heal. It wasn’t clear Tuesday how long the senator could wait before being booked on the charges.

District Attorney General William Whitesell of Murfreesboro, whose office will prosecute the case, did not return a phone call Tuesday.

Efforts to contact the senator or his attorney, Jerry Summers of Chattanooga, were not successful. Neither returned calls.

In light of the accident, Summers has asked the judge in Cooper’s fraud case to postpone the March 5 start date of the trial.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Contact Leon Alligood at 615-259-8279 or at lalligood@tennessean.com.