A grand jury has indicted state Rep. Dawnna Dukes on 13 felony corruption charges and two misdemeanors, with a maximum penalty of 28 years behind bars, a courthouse source said Wednesday.
Dukes, an Austin Democrat, faces two misdemeanor counts of abuse of official capacity and 13 felony counts of tampering with public records, a source with knowledge of the case said. Travis County prosecutors and investigators from the Texas Rangers presented the evidence to the grand jurors Tuesday, who indicted Dukes on the first day that they met to consider the case.
The indictment comes seven days after Dukes reneged on a promise to step down and took the oath of office for a 12th two-year term representing parts of North Austin, East Austin, Pflugerville and Manor.
Dukes posted a statement on Facebook following the indictment, which was first reported by Spectrum News: “Of course, I am disappointed but I expected that if I was sworn into office in January 10th that this indictment would follow. All I can say today is that I will be entering a plea of Not Guilty.”
One abuse of official capacity charge deals with Dukes using her legislative staff for personal purposes. In April, the American-Statesman reported that Dukes had arranged to give a taxpayer-funded raise to an aide to cover gas money for driving Dukes’ daughter to and from school.
With the other abuse of official capacity charge, the grand jury accused Dukes of using money raised from campaign contributors for personal purposes. Politicians may use campaign money to pay for election activities or for expenses related to carrying out their elected office, but state law forbids them from using it for personal purposes.
Dukes has made numerous questionable expenditures from her campaign account over the years, including $13,000 in payments to family members, $30,000 on gas and $2,700 to a seamstress, a Statesman investigation in June found.
$13,000 to family members? Yeah, that’s gonna raise red flags.
The grand jury accused Dukes of converting to personal use campaign expenditures that were earmarked for the African-American Community Heritage Festival, an East Austin event Dukes co-founded 18 years ago but ended last year after negative attention caused by the investigation. Dukes has listed at least $17,600 in campaign expenditures for the festival, including $303 to an electronics store for “replacement of digital camera broken by staff,” $146 for Mardi Gras beads and more than $7,000 for musical performers, the Statesman investigation found.
The 13 charges for tampering with public records concerns an allegation that Dukes collected pay from the state during the 2014 legislative interim for days that she did not travel to the Capitol, which is required under House rules. The American-Statesman in May reported that a former Dukes staffer had accused the legislator of filing requests for per diem payments for days that she never traveled to the Capitol and may not have worked at all.
So Dukes was getting paid for not working. In other words, she was living the Democratic Party dream…
(Hat tip: Dwight.)