Cooper surrenders on DUI charge; blood alcohol level was 0.18

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) - State Sen. Jerry Cooper surrendered Monday on a drunken driving warrant that shows his blood-alcohol level was 0.18 percent in a Feb. 7 wreck that left him injured and delayed his federal land fraud trial.

The Morrison Democrat surrendered and was released on a self-recognizance bond pending a May 11 court hearing, said his attorney, Jack Mitchell of Murfreesboro.

Mitchell said the warrant shows that Cooper's blood-alcohol level was 0.18 percent. Tennessee drunken driving laws define intoxication as 0.08 percent.

Mitchell said he had not seen investigation records from the single-vehicle accident on Interstate 24 but Cooper would "plead not guilty from the start."

Cooper had attended three Nashville legislative receptions where alcohol was served before the single-vehicle accident.

A Department of Safety spokesman initially said preliminary reports showed no alcohol in Cooper's vehicle, but at least one witness who stopped said there was an empty bottle of Jack Daniel's whiskey nearby.

The handling of Cooper's single-car wreck and subsequent DUI charge raised questions about whether the lawmaker possibly got preferential treatment. The Tennessee Highway Patrol's commander rushed to the wreck behind working patrol officers and emergency responders and although Cooper was charged with driving under the influence and speeding, the result of the DUI test was withheld until he surrendered Monday.

Col. Mike Walker, commander of the Tennessee Highway Patrol, has said Cooper received no preferential treatment from him or the patrol. District Attorney William Whitesell also said withholding the blood-alcohol test results until Cooper's surrender was not unusual.

Cooper's injuries prompted a federal judge in Chattanooga to delay his land fraud trial three months to June 4.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)