Posts Tagged ‘Texas Rangers’

Dawnna Dukes Indicted on 15 Counts, Faces 28 Years in Jail

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017

The shoe has landed:

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…

(Previously.)

(Hat tip: Dwight.)

Dawnna Dukes Case Headed to Grand Jury

Wednesday, January 11th, 2017

In an update to the Dawnna Dukes story, her case is headed to a grand jury:

Travis County prosecutors and Texas Rangers will present evidence to a grand jury that state Rep. Dawnna Dukes abused the power of her office, Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore told the American-Statesman.

Among possible charges: abuse of official capacity and tampering with public records, Moore said.

Dukes was sworn into office for a 12th term Tuesday after reneging on a plan to step down before the Legislature convened.

Moore said that the grand jury proceedings will begin next Tuesday.

Snip.

Shortly after the Texas Rangers presented their case against Dukes to Travis County prosecutors in September, the Austin Democrat announced she would step down when her term expired, citing medical issues related to a 2013 car crash had made it impossible for her to serve.

Days ago, however, Dukes changed her mind. She was sworn in to a 12th term on Tuesday with the rest of her House colleagues.

The Travis County DA doesn’t have a great reputation (see also: Rosemary Lehmberg and Ronnie Earl), but the Rangers are in a different league entirely.

(Previously.)

Dawnna Dukes Changes Course, Refuses to Step Down

Saturday, January 7th, 2017

Well, this is an interesting turn of events:

State Rep. Dawnna Dukes, D-Austin, has informed Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore that she will not step down from her seat in the Texas House as planned when the House convenes for a new session Tuesday, Moore told the American-Statesman Saturday.

Moore, newly-sworn in as district attorney, said that Dukes had called her to inform her of her decision.

Moore said he was already scheduled to meet with Texas Rangers investigating ethics charges against Dukes on Tuesday and would proceed with that meeting and then decide whether to go before a grand jury and seek an indictment of Dukes.

Dukes announced in September that she would not be sworn in for a 12th term when the next session of the Texas Legislature convenes Jan. 10. Dukes cited medical complications stemming from a 2013 car crash as the reason for her departure, but her announcement came soon after the Texas Rangers completed an investigation into her use of legislative staff and campaign money.

It’s hard to fathom why she’s doing this, unless it’s to somehow gain more leverage for a better plea deal. Or maybe she just has no other potential job prospects that will let her pretend to work from home while not showing up, given that the last time I covered this story she had been absent from the legislature for a year.

But I can’t help thinking that Dukes’ desire to remain in the Statehouse will make it a lot more likely that she ends up in the big house instead…

(Hat tip: Matt Mackowiak’s Twitter feed.)

Democratic Rep. Dawnna Dukes To Become More Officially Absent

Thursday, September 29th, 2016

Austin Democratic state Rep. Dawnna Dukes announced she’s stepping down from the legislature.

Her ostensible reason for leaving is health issues, stemming from a serious car crash she suffered in 2013. (“State Rep. Ruth McClendon-Jones, D-San Antonio, said Dukes is resting at home now after being hospitalized for several hours after the incident. She said Dukes’ vehicle was rear-ended by a large truck while stuck in traffic.” While it does sound serious, I do note that “serious injuries” from a car crash usually require more than “a few hours” in the hospital.)

But her “health-related” retirement “comes as the Travis County District Attorney’s office is conducting a criminal investigation into her alleged misuse of staff and government funds”:

Former staff members accused Dukes of seeking reimbursement from the state for travel payments she was not entitled to. In February, The Texas Tribune reported that the state auditor’s office was investigating her use of state workers on a personal project Dukes oversaw, the African American Heritage Festival. The auditors referred the case to Travis County prosecutors.

Then, in April, state officials said the Texas Rangers had joined the Travis County District Attorney’s office criminal probe. A spokesman for the Rangers, Tom Vinger, said Monday their investigation is complete and has been presented to the Travis County District Attorney’s office.

“In her resignation statement, [Dukes] said she was ‘content that two signature community programs I initiated enriched my beloved District 46 and Austin community.’ It does sound like there was some sort of enrichment going on.

Chanman’s Musings has some thoughts on her resignation pay bump.

While Dukes is stepping down and has been absent from the legislature for more than a year, her name will still be on the ballot in November, which means that Gov. Greg Abbott will have to call a special election next year unless Republican challenger Gabriel Nila beats her in November. Which may be difficult, as the district is so heavily Democratic. If he loses, at least three Democrats (Austin Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole, Joe Deshotel (son of state Rep. Joe Deshotel), and Travis County Democratic Party Chairman Vincent Harding) have said they’re considering running.

Public Integrity Unit Oversight Removed From Travis County

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015

Democrats won’t be able to launch partisan witch hunts against statewide Republican officeholders from the Travis County Prosecutor’s Office anymore, as Governor Greg Abbott has signed the bill stripping oversight of the statewide Public Integrity Unit from the Travis County prosecutor’s office

“Under House Bill 1690, the Public Integrity Unit would be shifted from Travis County to the Texas Rangers – part of the Department of Public Safety – which would take charge of investigating alleged corruption among public officials. District attorneys from the home county of the accused would prosecute the cases.”

Travis County Democrats in general, and District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg in particular, have only themselves to blame. Both Lehmberg and equally partisan predecessor Ronnie Earle have pursued vindictive and flat-out-fraudulent cases against Republican officeholders, from Rep. Tom Delay (accused of violating a law that hadn’t been enacted at the time, and whose conviction was overturned and converted into an outright acquittal) to Kay Bailey Hutchison.

But it was Rosemary Lehmberg’s actions that pretty much sealed the fate of the Public Integrity Unit. The video of following her DUI arrest (when she decided that rolling around Austin with an open bottle of vodka in the car and a blood alcohol level of .239 would just be a swell idea) lead to Governor Rick Perry demand for her to resign. When she refused, Perry carried through with his threat to veto funding for the Public Integrity Unit, at which point the Travis County prosecutor’s office indicted Perry for using his constitutionally enumerated veto powers.

If it hadn’t been for Lehmberg’s poor judgment and criminal activity, and and the grossly partisan overreach of herself and Earle, the legislature would never have felt compelled to act.

Given the sterling reputation of the Texas Rangers, the unit is now in far better hands, and the move to their oversight takes effects September 1.

Texas House Votes To Defang Runaway Travis County Public Integrity Unit

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015

More good news from the Texas legislature: The Texas House has voted to remove jurisdiction over statewide elected and appointed officials from Travis County’s corrupt, partisan Public Integrity Unit. Instead, such investigations would be handled by the unimpeachable Texas Rangers rather than the likes of Ronnie Earl and Rosemary Lehmberg.

It was only a historical fluke that Travis County managed to exercise such authority in the first place, and given the Public Integrity Unit’s willingness to pursue abusive vendettas against Republican political figures such as Tom DeLay and Rick Perry, removing that responsibility was long overdue.

Democrats will no longer be able to get revenge against Republicans from the Travis County prosecutor’s office for what Republicans and voters have done to them at the ballot box over the last two decades…