Texas elections official pleads guilty in colon-cleanse prank

Denise Ann Hernandez (Smith County Jail)
Denise Ann Hernandez (Smith County Jail)(Smith County Jail)
Published: Mar. 9, 2022 at 11:36 AM CST
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - The former Smith County elections administrator who was arrested after she put a colon-cleansing medicine in her co-workers’ drinks without their knowledge agreed to 18 months of deferred adjudication Wednesday.

In June, Denise Ann Hernandez, 54, of Athens, was originally arrested on two counts of assault causing bodily injury.

On Wednesday, Hernandez appeared in Smith County’s County-Court-at-Law No. 2 for a plea hearing. As part of the agreement, Hernandez pleaded guilty to the two assault charges. She will serve 18 months of deferred adjudication, which is like probation.

The two victims agreed that Hernandez’ sentence was appropriate, according to Paul Clarkston, the court manager for County-Court-at-Law No. 2.

According to a previous East Texas News story, the assault happened on or about April 27, 2021, in the Smith County Courthouse annex building on E. Ferguson St. in Tyler, in the elections department. A detective read the written statements of the victims of the alleged assault, as well as the statements of witnesses who had knowledge of the incident. The act of the colon cleanse being added to the victim’s drinks without their knowledge and with disregard to their pre-existing medical conditions caused their conditions to be amplified and caused them pain, the detective stated.

One of the victims gave the detective a statement and told him that Hernandez was her supervisor in the elections department and that they were working together on April 27. She said she was telling another coworker about something she was concerned about when Hernandez left the room. When she came back, she allegedly gave each of them a cup of pink liquid that Hernandez described as Spark Energy Drink. They both drank the drinks. Hernandez asked them if they had finished their drinks, which they had.

They say she then placed a canister of colon cleanse on the counter and started making fun of them for drinking it and singing, “You just drank colon cleanser!” in a childish manner.

The next day, Hernandez continued to make fun of the women, one of whom had a medical condition that was made worse by the colon cleanse liquid. The affidavit said she experienced pain, as well as the embarrassment inflicted by Hernandez. She said that she was afraid to say anything because Hernandez was a bully and she didn’t want to lose her job.

The woman said she decided to file charges against Hernandez, stating that Denise finds it funny to pick on them at work, and called her a bully, according to the arrest affidavit. She said there were previous incidents wherein Hernandez would poke the woman’s breast or make fun of her in other ways.

An arrest warrant was issued on May 26 by Judge Kerry Russell. Hernandez was arrested on June 1 on two charges of assault causing bodily injury and held on a total bond amount of $20,000. She bonded out the same day.

The information in the affidavit was redacted to protect the victims’ identities and their medical conditions.

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