Gary Franqui of Brownwood picked up his first DWI in Comanche County on his 21st birthday. He got his second on his 22nd birthday in Richmond, Va., according to testimony Tuesday in 35th District Court.
    Franqui, now 37, went on to have additional DWI arrests and showed up drunk in court on Feb. 16, 2017, when he was scheduled to enter open pleas.
    Franqui returned to court Tuesday, sober, in handcuffs and wearing orange jail clothing. Franqui entered no contest pleas to a pair of 2016 cases, and District Judge Steve Ellis crafted a sentence that sends him to prison for six years, then sends him to a felony lockup treatment facility upon his release from prison.
    Tuesday’s DWI convictions were numbers four and five for Franqui, whom Ellis called a “flaming alcoholic.”
    Franqui didn’t dispute that description and pleaded — through his own testimony and through the argument of his lawyer, John Lee Blagg — to be sent straight to a treatment facility rather than prison. Prosecutor Christina Moss sought an eight-year prison sentence, arguing that Franqui could get treatment for his alcoholism while locked up.
    Ellis said Moss and Blagg were both correct in what they sought. “I’m going to do both, but it’s not going to be an easy track,” Ellis said, telling Franqui he’s not irredeemable and “you can beat this.”
    Franqui, who’d been working at Kohler until his most recent arrest on Feb. 16 — the day he showed up drunk in court — testified he’d been drinking a liter of vodka a day.
    
Arrest history
    Franqui testified about his first two DWI arrests, in Comanche County and Richmond, Va. Franqui was unclear in his testimony about how those cases were disposed, saying only that he had paid money in both cases.
    In March 2008, Franqui was arrested on a felony charge of DWI third or more and was placed on five years probation, according to testimony.
    In February 2016, Brownwood police arrested Franqui on another felony DWI charge, and his blood alcohol content was .318, according to testimony. Franqui bonded out of jail, and Brownwood police arrested Franqui on yet another another felony DWI charge in July. Franqui’s blood alcohol content on that arrest was .229, according to testimony.
    Franqui was due in court Feb. 16 to enter pleas, and he drank ahead of time to settle his nerves, Franqui testified Tuesday. When he came to court drunk, Blagg told Ellis that his client could not communicate with him because of his intoxication.
    Franqui was arrested that day and sent to jail with bonds set at $300,000.
    
Common law wife testifies
    After Moss finished the state’s case Tuesday, Blagg announced he was calling Franqui’s common law wife, Holly Sliger, to testify. But as Sliger waited outside the courtroom for her turn to testify, Brownwood police arrested Sliger on a warrant for failure to appear on traffic charges.
    Ellis called a lunch recess, and when court resumed, Sliger had been brought to court wearing orange jail clothing.
    Deputy Jim Cornelius delivered tissues to Sliger, seated on the witness stand, and to Franqui, seated at the defense table, as both  began crying. Franqui lowered his head onto the defense table for much of his common law wife’s testimony.
    Sliger, 29, said Franqui is a good man who’d taken her and her 2-year-old daughter in when she was 17. The two went on to have two sons together.
     If Franqui doesn’t drink, Sliger testified, “he’s not a very happy person.”
    Sliger described Franqui as a “functional drunk” who could work and function despite his alcohol issues.

Franqui testifies
    Blagg asked Franqui if he uses alcohol to treat his ADHD.
    “I don’t know why I use alcohol,” Franqui replied.
    Franqui said his employer’s insurance sent him to a Florida treatment center after one of his DWI arrests, but the treatment was a “joke.”
    When he’s not drinking, Franqui said, he gets cramps and becomes ill, irritable and nauseated. When Blagg asked Franqui if he needs treatment for alcoholism, Franqui began speaking louder and with emotion.
    “I need it and I want it,” Franqui said, adding that he doesn’t want his children seeing him dependent on alcohol.
    Franqui said he last worked at Kohler in December, when he broke his hand and went on medical leave.
    On cross-examination, Moss asked Franqui if he understands the danger he puts people in when he drinks and drives.
    “Yes ma’am,” Franqui replied.
    
Closing arguments
    “My client has a terrible addiction to alcohol,” Blagg said. “He has a disease — a terrible disease — called alcoholism. He has a physical need for alcohol. He’s never had serious treatment.”
    Moss argued that Franqui has had many opportunities to seek help but “he has to ask for it. He has to take responsibility for his own life. If you need treatment, you seek it. You don’t wait for the court to order it.”

Sentencing
    Ellis said he was sentencing Franqui in a manner that would send  him to prison for six years — but also make sure he receives treatment after prison in a substance abuse felony treatment punishment (SAFP) facility.
    “It’s not often that I see someone come into my courtroom so drunk, they cannot communicate with their lawyer,” Ellis told Franqui.
    Ellis said an entire family can be wiped out while going to get pizza by someone “not half as drunk as you.”
    Ellis said he doesn’t think Franqui intends to hurt anyone when he’s in his right mind. “When you’re drunk, you will kill them and you’re killing yourself right now,” Ellis said. “You’ll never be able to live until you stop drinking, period.
    “You can come out of this a better person than when you go in, or a worse one. This is your last hope. There is no more.”