TYLER, Texas (KETK) – Former Smith County elections official Denise Hernandez pleaded guilty Wednesday morning to spiking drinks with colon cleanser and giving them to her employees without their knowledge.
Hernandez was charged with two counts of assault causing bodily injury, a Class A misdemeanor in Texas. She had faced up to one year in jail for each charge along with a maximum fine of $4,000.
Hernandez agreed to a plea deal that included 18 months of deferred adjudicated probation with no fine and cost of court proceedings. A Smith County prosecutor said that the two victims in the case agreed to the conditions of the plea deal.
Deferred adjudication in Texas means that if Hernandez follows all conditions of her deal over the 18-month sentence, the conviction would be wiped from her record.
Her hearing was held by Judge Taylor Heaton in the County Court at Law No. 2. Heaton himself won re-election until the end of 2026 after no one opposed him in the Republican primaries that were held last week.
A warrant obtained by KETK News last year revealed many of her workers accused her of being a bully in the workplace. It stated that Hernandez continuously made fun of her employees for consuming the spiked drinks.
The documents also revealed that she pulled the trick despite knowing the victims had prior medical conditions that could be exacerbated by drinking the cleanser.
The two employees went home due to the pain the colon cleanser caused on their stomachs. One employee told deputies that Hernandez would “poke her breast or make fun of her.”
Two other male employees backed up the victims’ accounts to investigators, saying that Hernandez was a bully and had heard her bragging about the incident.
Hernandez had been hired in January 2021 to oversee Smith County elections. She suddenly resigned two days after the May 2021 elections. She was arrested just days later on the assault charges.