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Ex-DA Who Sent Exoneree Anthony Graves to Death Row Is Disbarred

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anthony graves charles sebesta

It’s been nine long years since the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals found that Charles Sebesta, the Burleson County DA who prosecuted Anthony Graves for capital murder, had withheld favorable evidence and used false testimony to secure a conviction—a conviction that sent Graves to death row. Graves spent eighteen years in prison, most of it in solitary confinement.

Today, finally, a small measure of justice was served when the State Bar of Texas stripped Sebesta of his law license and formally disbarred him.

It was a stunning reversal of fortune for a man who was, for decades, the most powerful elected official in Burleson and Washington counties. Even after Graves walked free in 2010 and was formally exonerated in 2011, Sebesta continued to impugn his character—telling Texas newspapers as recently as last January that Graves was guilty of murder. Until the bar’s ruling, he did so with impunity.

Then, last summer—twenty years after Graves’ wrongful conviction—the bar’s chief disciplinary counsel determined that there was “just cause” to believe that the former prosecutor had engaged in misconduct. This finding followed a lengthy investigation, which the bar conducted after Graves brought a grievance against Sebesta last January. (Graves was only able to do so because lawmakers passed a bill which changed the existing statute of limitations, allowing exonereees to file such grievances with the bar up to four years after their release from prison.)

The legal proceeding that followed was conducted this May behind closed doors, as per Sebesta’s request. (Attorneys who are accused of misconduct may elect to have a district court proceeding, which is open to the public, or a private evidentiary panel hearing.) The trial spanned four days, and included testimony from Kelly Siegler, the special prosecutor who pronounced Graves an innocent man after re-investigating the case in 2010. Sebesta retained the formidable trial attorney Steve McConnico to defend him. But McConnico was up against the bar’s Laura Popps and Beth Stevens, who had prosecuted the professional misconduct matter of former Williamson County DA Ken Anderson, resulting in his disbarment and jail time in 2013 for his conduct in the Michael Morton case.

In a sweeping ruling released this morning, the bar found that Sebesta had violated no fewer than five tenets of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct, including:

  • 3.03(a)(l ): “A lawyer shall not knowingly make a false statement of material fact or law to a tribunal.”
  • 3.03(a)(5): “A lawyer shall not knowingly offer or use evidence that the lawyer knows to be false.”
  • 3.09(d): “A prosecutor in a criminal case shall make timely disclosure to the defense of all evidence or information known to the prosecutor that tends to negate the guilt of the accused or mitigates the offense…”
  • 8.04(a)(l): “A lawyer shall not violate these rules, knowingly assist or induce another to do so, or do so through the acts of another…”
  • 8.04(a)(3): “A lawyer shall not engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation.

When I reached Graves in Houston this morning, he expressed his gratitude to the bar for ensuring that Sebesta had finally faced consequences for his actions. “I never thought that a young, African-American man from the projects could file a grievance against a powerful, white DA in Texas and win,” he said.

But he cautioned that a victory in his case alone was not enough. “I think this is a great first step,” he said. “But a lot of people in Washington and Burleson counties were prosecuted and convicted by Charles Sebesta, and some of them are still behind bars. All of those cases need to be examined, too.”

Was disbarment a sufficient punishment for the man who had sent him to death row, I asked? “I think he should be brought before a court of law to answer to charges of attempted murder,” Graves said.

(Photo: Anthony Graves when he filed the grievance against Charles Sebesta in 2014. Credit: AP Photo/Houston Chronicle, Marie D. De Jesus)

Sebesta Judgment of Disbarment

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  • Cosmos99

    Pointless now since he is 73 yrs old and most likely retired. The only just thing to do is force him to pay a huge settlement out of his own pocket and imprison him.

    • Gritsforbreakfast

      Not pointless. Suboptimal, but prosecutors will react to the public disgrace of one of their own, even in retirement. Better than NOT disbarring him.

      Good job on this, Pam, glad to see you first up at the denouement.

    • Cathy Snedeker

      Not pointless and what does retirement have to do with it? He should go to prison.

    • olhg1

      What he did to Mr. Graves was, IMO, similar to a war crime. War criminals have been hounded down, even when they are in their nineties-in the cause of justice. The evil men do must not be forgotten-for future generations. I’m not a philosopher, but the sentiments just came out that way.

    • Yolanda Anne Brown

      NOT POINTLESS. This man decided to abuse his office to sentence an innocent man to death. This man came extremely close to that and was robbed of many MANY years with his family and forced to live a hellish life in prison. They need to put the ex-DA in prison, REGARDLESS of his age, for the rest of his life and see how HE likes being in hell.

    • George Eggleston

      not sure how you guys missed what he was saying so badly. He said it was pointless to disbar a man who is not now nor will he have ever practiced law again. They did NOTHING. They admitted he broke the law. He goes home. He suffers not one tiny bit. It is a meaningless victory, Now if they put him in prison, force him to stay in general population and televise his daily rapes on a closed circuit tv in every court room in the state then maybe there will be an impact on the filth in corruption in the Texas judicial system,

      • tecolote1

        Serves as an object lesson. And probably a first step.

      • Macmel

        George, actually it does help. Graves filed it for the reason to make a statement – this was wrong.

        Additionally, by getting Sebesta disbarred for “prosecutorial misconduct” it allows others who were tried with him as an attorney and still found guilty to file for a retrial.

        Now, not all of them will get those retrials because they were properly done; however, it does give them a second chance and this is a just cause for said filing.

        Needless to say the disbarring won’t help Graves anymore except satisfaction Sebesta was punished for misconduct, but it could help others.

        • Cosmos99

          so exactly how is Mr Sebesta going to be punished? He still gets to live his life out in freedom and get his pension. So he loses his ability to practice? How is he harmed again?

          • Macmel

            The disbar ring allows others in jail who had him as attorney to get their cases retried possibly and I’d found wrongfully jailed sue him. Disbarring helps take away some immunities he’d had as one too.

      • Cosmos99

        Thank you for the further explanation. I couldn’t have said it any better.

    • Better than nothing. Yes, it might be a good idea to strip him of civil immunity.

    • tecolote1

      Justice is not pointless.

    • Mark Filman

      Take his pension.
      Follow that by seizing his assets until such a time that it is determined how many assets were earned or accrued since Graves wrongful conviction.
      But that would only work for Graves, if Sebesta did this once we can say he did it more than once.

    • “Pointless now….”

      Consider the alternative: what would his collected fellow attorneys be saying about him by continuing to keep him a member in good standing until the day he died?

      As opposed to what they just HAVE said by expelling him?

      I think, in the cause of justice, at least this needed to be done.

      Among other things.

    • Steven Holly

      Exactly. POINTLESS. the man lived a rich and fulfilling life while his victim spent half of his life in hell.

      The bigger issue is this goes on in every city in our country.

    • Michael Brian Bentley

      Do you really believe there was just one case like this? They are just starting to determine what cases were tried by this DA using the same tactics. There could be dozens and dozens, perhaps hundreds.

    • JamesPMoore

      Don’t we wish. But the Supreme Court in its “wisdom” ruled that prosecutors cannot be sued for wrongful prosecutions (Imbler v Pachtman). Prison would be Justice.

      Be happy though. Maine has the same situation but refuses to address the facts.

    • Andrew Armstrong

      He can fall under the care of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Institutional Division, like those he wrongly and falsely sent there.

  • Jed

    i agree with graves. he should be charged with attempted murder, etc.

  • Ken Warren

    Hmmm…the prosecutor intentionally manipulated others (judge, juries, investigators, not to mention the physical evidence itself) in order to cause a person’s death.

    If the circumstances were changed at all, and this were a private party who manipulated information in order to get one group of people to kill a lone individual, it would be considered a major crime, wouldn’t it?

  • Blue Dogs

    Fact is that I still believe Graves is a MURDERER as far as I’m concerned!

    • spacepuppy

      Fact is, there’s always somebody that will believe the Earth is flat as well. But it’s not your motive being discussed.

      • Udo Eze

        Blue Dogs It appears you have pus inside your skull

      • unique

        Exactly, its Mr Graves day, motive discussed. If this evil man didn’t care about ruining someone’s life, he is not deserving of compassion. Throw the old geezer in prison and let him get a taste of his own script.

    • marz
    • Pamela Colloff

      Blue Dogs: That’s not only not based in reality, that’s libel.

    • Udo Eze

      That’s your own problem, mister. Who cares what you think?

    • I-Jay Jay

      Because you are an idiot

    • Greg Tierney

      fucking moronic….

    • Wildtim

      Like anyone but you cares what twisted crap is spinning around in your brain?

    • Uzarate

      OF COURSE you do! He is black after all and you’re more than likely a redneck Texan so that explains your “belief.”

    • It doesn’t really matter. The DA got disbarred for breaking five key rules of practice. Whether he did that to convict a guilty or innocent person is irrelevant to the fact that he broke the law, and more than once.

      • Dorothy M. Tate

        and maybe this will make others in his position think twice before doing this to another innocent man

    • SomeRandomCitizen

      The evidence shows that, in this case, Charles Sebesta how committed the attempted murder of Mr. Graves. I wonder now if Charlie Sebesta managed to get any innocent people executed. Yes, BlueDogs, this story is definitely about a murderer; you seem to be confused as to which of these people it is, though.

      • kiki70

        Sebesta needs prison….hoping this is the first step.

    • tecolote1


    • enp

      What you believe is not important nor germane to the situation. The courts found him not guilty and the prosecutor guilty. So believe what you want, but it won’t change the outcome.

    • Joe_the_Troll

      You can believe in dog-headed fairies if you want to. That doesn’t make them real. And here is an inconvenient fact for you; you are NOT concerned, and have nothing to say in the matter.

    • 44blue

      Why do you say that? What’s your reason? Are you familiar with the case? I was not. The Houston Chronicle article linked by Marz below (thanks) concludes that the only evidence still standing after investigation were the statements of some jailhouse snitches. That’s clearly insufficient! Graves sounds innocent to me.

  • Stephen Bellinger

    So a prosecutor send a man to death row, knowing that his case is faulty, and that he cheated in the proceedings… and his only punishment is disbarment, at age 73… sad.

    • kiki70

      I agree….think prison needed. His absolute arrogance, etc.after Mr. Graves exoneration is criminal as well.

  • There needs to be better accountability, and it should not be able to be delayed for so long. I hope the new commission to examine wrongful convictions will consider this and make recommendations.

  • warrenj

    In this case , I don’t think a sentence of 18 months in a real jail would be unreasonable. It would serve not just as revenge style punishment but as a useful experience in helping him understand what he did to the victim- though certainly not comparable to the degree of helplessness of a powerless person facing the death penalty. There is another victim, though. That is the credibility of our justice system. Stories like this make it increasingly harder to repair.

  • jksteiner1974

    It shouldn’t take 20 years, and disbarring isn’t enough. He should face severe criminal charges. He’s an embarrassment not only to the justice system, but to the human race. He’s a monster.

  • Regina Taylor

    I hope mcculloch over in St. Louis choked on a bone when he heard about this. He should be disbarred also, for that farce of a grand jury he oversaw, as a defense attorney for darren wilson.

  • I’m in full agreement that DA’s who willfully and knowingly obtain a death penalty conviction via false evidence or withheld evidence should be facing attempted murder charges themselves. It amazes me how long we’ve let this kind of behavior slide in America.

    • Greg Tierney

      It’s America,we have a right to falsely accuse and imprison anyone….

    • kiki70

      Hear hear!

  • Jenny Tull

    Too little too late.

  • disqus_ru5Ve9vuwJ

    All elected officials are motivated by the same goal, their own continued re-election. For DA’s, that means successful convictions to prove how tough on crime they are. As long as stats are more important than facts, we’ll get this behavior.

  • Oline Wright

    If after Graves was released there is evidence he (the former DA) continued to “impugn his character” as the article reports then it seems the next thing which should happen is that Graves should take him to civil court for slander if not libel.
    This could potentially give him some redress for what the former DA did to him.

  • Guytano Parks

    Great news! Too bad this despicable piece of shit was not disbarred sooner.

  • Michael Siever

    For those wondering why Sebastard will never see the inside of a jail cell, the answer enlies with how politically connected he is. He is probably in deep with with the Burleson and Washington County GOPs, and has a lot of dirt on party officials, including judges, and threatened to talk to media outlets had they thrown the book at him. That’s the same thing that happened with Ken Anderson, the former Williamson County DA/judge that took away 25 years from Michael Morton. He got a grand total of three days in a county jail, and walked free for the same reason: He knew too much about the Wilco GOP, and would have talked if things hadn’t gone his way in his sentencing. As for disbarment, that is a sanction given by the State Bar of Texas, a non-partisan organization that will disbar you if you are caught engaging in unethical/illegal conduct in your capacity as defender/prosecutor/judge, party affiliation be damned.

  • Joe_the_Troll

    This is exactly why I cannot support the death penalty, and why I strongly feel that support for the death penalty has more to do with revenge and punishment than JUSTICE.

  • Sharon McGriff Payne

    Charles Sebesta and his type are part of the reason people mistrust America’s so-called justice system. He my be retired and 73 years old but no matter, he has been disgraced. Now I pray that he is sued for his assets – let him know the anguish he made others suffer. I have no compassion for his type.

  • 4Relativity

    Only because my job requires frequent contact with our criminal justice system have I had the opportunity to see and learn some extraordinary things about our criminal justice system. It started with a minor part in the Ryan Ferguson case. A 19 year old man wrongfully convicted of murder despite the complete lack of physical evidence. (Google “Ryan Ferguson” and see) More recently we have been directly involved in a case where another DA has been accused of withholding exculpatory evidence in a capital murder case.
    We were around when Michael Morton was arrested and when he was set free and Ken Anderson went to jail.
    We watched as corrupt Jefferson County Judge Lane Walker lied, and had his court Deputies lie, so a PI could not serve him a Federal Summons. The Deputies were eventually fired and the Judge resigned six months ago to accept a ‘better offer in the private sector’ but still has yet to start that job.
    If you have been paying attention you also know that wanna-be President, and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, dissolved the very scientific committee he established to determine if Todd Willingham really did start the fire that killed his own children. Todd was executed and later, when Perry learned that his committee was fixing to report that the fire was not arson but an electrical short, which means Texas executed an innocent man, Perry killed the committee and thus their authority to issue the report. Doesn’t look good, a wanna-be President allowing his State to execute an innocent man, don’t ya’ know.
    Taking the stand to testify that a very powerful County Sherriff had been sending pornographic images and sexual propositions to almost every female officer on his force taught me allot. He had raped two female jail officers as well. Also, this wasn’t any ‘regular porn’, this stuff involved 95 year old grandmothers being raped, animals, B&D, and some other stuff I am not going to mention here. He lied about it but wasn’t smart enough to know that carriers kept records of the texts and that most of the females on his staff never deleted the texts from their phones. At least they knew what evidence was.
    The point of this post is that while 95% of the men and women working in Law Enforcement and the Justice System are honest, moral, upstanding human beings there is that 5% who will lie, cheat, steal, accept bribes, do favors, commit crimes, and otherwise behave however they want to in order to further their own self interests. Anyone who does not believe that, and take that lesson to heart, is an ignorant fool looking at the world through blinders.
    Innocent people are convicted, and some are executed, on a regular basis because of DAs that lie, LEOs that lie, and LEO’s that lie to DAs to ‘help’ the case. Sometimes, as in Ryan Ferguson’s case, it is so blatant and desperate that after the truth comes out is extremely difficult to believe that such a travesty ever saw the light of day.
    My advice – Don’t ever get arrested, especially for something you did not do. It could cost you your freedom or your life. It has happened to many, many, others. And, our black family nanny, who raised us kids, was right when she said “You got money, you got Justice.”
    Just ask OJ.

    • It’s amazing, how rock-solid that 5% figure is, in a certain category of criminal psychology. A.E. Van Vogt, psychologist and novelist, wrote about a type he called “the Right Man” or “the Violent Male”, the kind of fellow who MUST be right, can’t bear to be shown wrong, and will fly into a rage if that happens; it’s 5% of the population in any part of the world; the type tends to become dominant (powerful) in any society simply because it WANTS power so much; and those who DON’T achieve power conventionally tend to seek it by other channels, such as through crime — so you get the corrupt officials and cops who were stuck too low for their liking on society’s hierarchy, as well as the gang bosses outside that hierarchy altogether. Even in prisons, a 5% leadership is more dangerous than the rest — but identify and isolate them, and the rest will be less trouble.

      • 4Relativity

        Raven… I confess being well acquainted with that 5% number. Many moons ago, as a child psychologist. We were taught about the 5%. These days the official diagnosis is “Anti Social Personality Disorder”. In the olden days, before the PC rage, they were just called sociopaths or psychopaths. They are comprised of the approximately 5% of the population who are born without the genetic capability to form a conscience. In other words, they don’t care about anyone other than themselves. They feel no empathy, no sympathy, no responsibility for their own action. They are extremely self centered. You have them pegged. I don’t know your training but it must be spot on.

        If you see one, run. They are everywhere. In the White House, the House, the Senate, local law enforcement, the schools, the 5% are everywhere and can be anyone . Please help keep an eye out. But do it carefully.

    • “My advice – Don’t ever get arrested, especially for something you did not do.”

      Hard advice to follow. After all, not getting arrested for something you DID do is as easy as obeying the law, “living upright and on the level” as they say. But not getting arrested for something you DIDN’T do? Who could ever stay safe from THAT, these days?

  • Sebesta’s immunity to lawsuit (for his actions as a prosecutor) ought to be revoked for these misdeeds, since they were not, and under the law could never have been, part of his job’s duties. So Graves ought to be able to sue him for the original malicious prosecution, as well as for the more recent defamations.

    Far more important, as Graves himself points out, is that all of Sebesta’s other convictions, especially the death-row cases, should be re-examined for the same sort of misconduct, because it is just too unlikely that Graves was his only victim ever.

  • Every case that this honorless filth has prosecuted needs to be investigated. As it stands now, there’s no telling how many other innocent people have been sent to prison through his nefarious conduct.

  • RightRevJim

    Wonderful! Finally! Until crooked cops, lawyers, DA’s, Judges go to prison this travesty will never abate. There must be consequences.

  • The Owl Guy

    He should be in gen pop. NOW.

  • Macmel

    While I don’t think Sebesta will be tried for attempted murder, I do compliment Graves on making this not about him but others who could’ve been wrongfully jailed under Sebesta’s attorney duties. I wish he didn’t do the whole bit about “I never thought that a young, African-American man from the projects could file a grievance against a powerful, white DA in Texas and win” but I do understand given Sebesta’s powerful past as an attorney which made it formidable.

    And I’d like to point out to everyone too that since being exonerated, Graves has pretty much kept out of the “limelight” so to speak and quietly moved on with his life. This is the first time since then I’ve actually heard much about him.

    Sebesta has been more vocal honestly – and that is quite telling, as in “He doth protest too much.”

    • Poly Player

      You should know that Graves used some of his settlement from the state to start a scholarship in the name of the atty/prof who worked on his case, Nicole Casares.

  • D

    Makes one wonder how often this type of illegal behavior happens in death penalty cases. Scary. True justice requires that this DA face a criminal trial. It is the only way to deter this type of behavior. Only seems fair since the death penalty is supposed to be a deterrent as well.

  • Cathy

    Disbarment? That’s it? Put him in prison, take his pension and give it to the victim.

  • AmmoAlamo

    Forty years ago a prosecutor and four cops got together to convict a close friend. He was so naïve – he knew if the cops simply told the truth of what happened that night he could not be convicted.

    But they decided, as one said “to get themselves a hippie”, so they concocted a believable story of marijuana possession, one joint allegedly thrown down on the ground right in front of the cops, no mention that six cops were there but it took them several minutes to find this joint, eventually found an alleged joint fifteen feet away and buried under a pile of leaves. This was in an area of a public park heavily traveled by young people.

    Then at trial three cops recited the same language, “Defendant threw something down and we immediately picked up the evidence in plain sight”. The kicker was the cop who testified that he chemically tested the joint and it tested as marijuana, but in plain view of the judge, attorneys for both sides, and the jury was a pristine ‘joint’ that was obviously completely and securely sealed tight at both ends, a hand rolled cigarette from which nothing could have been removed without damaging the wrapper, which was completely intact and undamaged…the so-called ‘joint’ was sealed at both ends and nothing inside could possibly have been removed for testing… but a cop sat there and in another case of apparent perjury said he tested the contents of the ‘joint’.

    Sentence was five years, felony, but really a life sentence since the convict could no longer own a gun (for life), nor could he vote unless he was willing to admit in writing and in public his prior conviction, for all his neighbors to see, nor could he enjoy any community service or some jobs that required a clean no-felony background check (one joint forty years ago – no you are not moral enough to help stock a community food pantry… and don’t even think about teaching kids or working in law enforcement).

    Now well past retirement, this friend would be very happy with one or more of those involved to have some or any negative consequence. But it ain’t gonna happen, he’ll never get justice, the crime was of the times and so were the cops and the prosecutor and the terrible defense lawyer whose idea of a defense was simply ‘who are you going to believe, my client or three cops?”

  • Andrew Armstrong

    Another prime example of of across the board term limits that need to be imposed in Texas.