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District Attorney Drops Felony Indictments Against Representative Dawnna Dukes

Prosecutors decided Dukes’s lies to draw daily legislative pay were not a crime.

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Representative Dawnna Dukes in the Texas House of Representatives.
AP Photo/Harry Cabluck

A Texas prosecutor was once fond of saying there are crimes and there are sins, and you can only prosecute the crimes. On Monday, state Representative Dawnna Dukes’s lies and misuse of office were downgraded from potential felonies to mere transgressions.

A Travis County grand jury indicted Dukes this past January on thirteen counts of feloniously tampering with a government record by filing requests for daily legislative pay even when she didn’t go to the Capitol to work. But as prosecutors prepared for trial last month, they discovered that the House does not actually enforce its written rule that lawmakers must physically work from the Capitol to draw daily pay. That unraveled the key to the indictments, which was that Dukes claimed to have worked at the Capitol when she did not.

“Because the HBO (House Budget Office) did not enforce the House rule requiring travel to the Capitol, and because of the lack of House policies regarding the type of activities that would qualify as legislative business, we cannot demonstrate that Rep. Dukes received payments because of her false statements,” Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore said in a statement.

Still, Moore made clear that Dukes lied. “Representative Dukes filed vouchers stating that she was entitled to the per diem reimbursement because she traveled to the Capitol to conduct legislative business,” Moore said in the statement. “However, evidence acquired during the investigation demonstrated that one a number of days claimed, she had not, in fact, traveled to the Capitol.”

Dukes was accused of cheating the state out of about $61 a day. To clear two misdemeanor charges against her, Dukes repaid the state $1,340 for salary paid to one of her aides for transporting her daughter. Dukes also paid a $500 fine to the Texas Ethics Commission and reimbursed her campaign fund $5,230 that had gone to personal use.

“Representative Dukes was innocent from day one,” Dukes’s lawyer Dane Ball said in a statement. “She could have resigned to avoid these charges, but had the courage to fight for the truth.”

Dukes missed most of the 2015 legislative session, and the following year she became the subject of a criminal investigation into alleged misuse of staff and government funds. She implied to her constituents that if she was re-elected she would resign before taking office. She did not, and then was absent for most of the 2017 legislative session. Her absence, along with her failure to adequately represent her district, landed her on the 2017 Texas Monthly Worst legislator list.

Prosecutors last month said Dukes responded to a subpoena for her cell phone by giving a different phone to investigators, and they also claimed that Dukes was spending nearly $1,000 a week calling a psychic. The source of that money was unclear.

Dukes’s personal problems began with a 2013 car wreck that left her in constant pain. But she clearly turned the perks of her office into personal privilege and cheated her constituents out of the representation they deserved.

What Dukes did is clearly not a crime. But voters will decide whether she deserves absolution for her sin.

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  • Gee. Travis County. What. a. surprise.

    • St. Anger

      Aren’t you out of your element here?

      This thread is neither about supporting racist college mascots nor about apologizing for racist NFL owners.

  • John Bernard Books

    I’ve never met a democrat that wasn’t crooked…..all of them.
    She stole taxpayer dollars and the crazy DA says that is not a crime.

    • roadgeek

      Unfair. Not all Democrats are crooked. I’ve always thought highly of John Sharp, and I always voted for Nelda Wells-Spears before she retired. I never caught a whiff of corruption in either politician. There are crooked Republicans as well.

      • John Bernard Books

        ahhhhh jeeeeze……that is your defense republicans do it too?!?

        • roadgeek

          It’s true. Not a defense, more of an observation.

          • John Bernard Books

            sounds to me like you’re defending her actions. Why?

  • Jake Schloss

    A little vehement there, RG. Is that because you were pushing her before to accept a plea agreement to a crime it now turns out she never committed?

  • scotfahey

    Tom Delay came to mind, no actual crime, but I digress. Travis County needs an outside monitor for the DA office

  • roadgeek

    “…But voters will decide whether she deserves absolution for her sin….”
    Her core constituency will vote to re-elect her just as often as she wants to be re elected. She’s black, you see, and that’s all that matters to a great many of her constituents. She was sticking it to The Man. Jesus Christ could return from Heaven and run for her seat, but He’d lose if He wasn’t black. It is what it is. Tribalism is alive and well everywhere, but especially so in her district, where constituents will re-elect a representative who lied to investigators, falsified evidence, missed massive amounts of work and pays a psychic $1,000 a week, which speaks to her judgment. But I’m a racist, right? “That Woadgeek….That Wascally Wacist!”

    • Jake Schloss

      Paying a psychic is a crime?
      Nor was there any accusation she lied to investigators. What was proven though is that investigators, including a white Ranger, did a sloppy job and failed to check an easily checked rule before going to the grand jury. Her crime was legislating while black

      • roadgeek

        There are numerous other black legislators in Texas, past and present, who weren’t indicted and served their constituents honorably. But she’s being picked on? Who’s playing the race card now?

        • Mollie

          You’re saying that because other black legislators have not had a problem that means there’s no issue here? Is that the logic? So, that means that if a black person in Minnesota has never been discriminated against, a black in Texas has no case for discrimination. It’s all just playing the race card.
          Even the Travis County D.A. has said her office traditionally prosecutes minorities at a higher rate than whites and jails them for longer times than whites convicted of similar crimes. What you say makes no sense.
          Dukes was accused of drug use and her personal life, including use of psychics, was brought into a case where those issues had no role. This was a lynching. Whites, including this magazine’s editorial staff, demanded she resign from office for a crime that, according to the D.A.’s statement yesterday, she never should have been charged with.

      • Kozmo

        When did Dukes ever legislate anything? Apart from sucking up to Craddick to retain her plum assignments. She’s what TM in its “Worst Legislator” articles used to call “furniture” — or she would be if she ever was seen on the House floor. She’s furniture goofing off someplace else.

        • Mollie

          She won her district by 70% last year. Obviously she’s pleasing someone. It’s a minority district, most of the people complaining are white. But whatever her politics, her politics are not reason for an indictment. She got a “Worst Legislator” and Dan Patrick did not? Please.

          • WUSRPH

            If you check you will find that her 70% vote showed no real strength for HER. Almost all Democratic candidates in her district got that %age or higher. It is a reflection of how Democratic her district is, not her personal popularity.

          • Mollie

            Oh please, how do you win 70% and it shows no strength of the candidate. Any politician would wish for no strength like that. She won a higher percentage than most of the members of the Travis County. White people don’t like her. So, what’s new? Austin is about having tame Negroes in office and she has not been one.

          • WUSRPH

            An lot of people would question how you define “tame Negro” in light of her selling out the Democrats in favor of Tom Craddick…

            The fact is that virtually EVERY DEMOCRAT on the ballot in her district got 70% or more….It had nothing to do with anything other than she was a DEMOCRAT.

            http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/fyiwebdocs/PDF/house/dist46/r8.pdf

          • Mollie

            She didn’t feel she had to follow her own party on everything. I’m African-American and I hear it all the time. Trump said the same thing, that the Democratic party takes blacks for granted and no blacks disputed that. What is best for white liberals in the Democratic party is not always best for black people. She opposed gentrification which is pushed in Austin by the Democratic mayor and the former Democratic mayor, now state senator Kirk Watson. You don’t know what you’re talking about. White precinct chairs voted to oust her but not minorities.

            Try reading something written by a black journalist. This is the story that broke the DA’s case. “The Curious Case of Dawnna Dukes.” http://www.texasmostly.org

          • SpiritofPearl

            Rumors four other Dems will run against her next time.

          • SpiritofPearl

            I’m white as are most of my neighbors. Most of us voted for her. Never again . . .

    • WUSRPH

      Your assumption that Dukes was elected by some sort of tribalism in an black legislative district overlooks the fact that blacks are the smallest of the third major population groups in here district making up[ only 22.1% of the population compared to 26.8% Anglo and 47.2 % Hispanic. As such, she had clearly had to rely on votes by others than blacks but we wouldn’t want to let facts stand in the way of your rant.

      • John Bernard Books

        Oh goodie we here from the dem apologist

    • SpiritofPearl

      An article just right for American Renaissance . . . You must spend a lot of money to clean your sheets.

    • José

      Great, now roadgeek is channeling Cliven Bundy, domestic terrorist:
      “I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro…”

  • Kozmo

    Once again a corrupt politician buys a Get Out of Jail Free card — no doubt with money made illicitly to begin with.

    Will no one challenge this crook in the next election? She NEVER SHOWS UP FOR WORK!!

    • SpiritofPearl

      Four Dems in my district (Dukes’) are challenging her.

  • John Bernard Books

    Here’s the facts…
    “A week after the Texas Rangers delivered their investigative report to Travis County prosecutors in the fall of 2016, Dukes announced that she would resign when her two-year term expired in January 2017. Dukes cited health reasons at the time, but prosecutors have since confirmed that the retirement plan was part of a deal struck by Dukes and then-District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg. But after Moore became district attorney in the beginning of January, Dukes reversed course and was sworn in to a 12th term. A grand jury indicted her a week later.”
    she cut a deal with the drunk DA to keep her pension if she resigned. Then when the crazy DA Moore took over, she told her not to resign that she would drop all charges and she did. The crazy DA said yes she lied, yes she filed false expense reports, yes she’s a criminal but she is also a dem and dems don’t go to jail when you have a crazy democrat DA.

  • John Bernard Books

    I would say the judicial system in Travis Cty is in disarray….
    “”The court told us the motion had been filed to remove the monitor. We strongly opposed it, but without further consultation with this office, she ordered its removal and now we have a fugitive,” said Moore.

    As Moore pointed out, Waguespack has a history of running. Austin police say shortly after the murder in 2015, he phoned a friend and said he had “done something really bad and was going away forever.” U.S. Marshals tracked him to Mississippi and took him into custody after a short standoff.”
    http://www.fox7austin.com/news/local-news/district-attorney-upset-with-judge-after-murder-suspect-skips-out-on-trial

    Would it be a fair statement to say dems run Travis Cty and it is a mess……

  • SeeItMyWay

    You know what would clear up all this mess? Definitive ethics laws…and I mean comprehensive with no wiggle room. Read how Singapore has written theirs. Break the laws, go to jail. No gray areas. Unfortunately, the people charged with writing and passing these reform laws seem to like them just like they are.