Sheriff investigating if Lehmberg responsible for hit-and-run

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by JESSICA HOLLOWAY / KVUE News and photojournalist SCOTT MCKENNEY

kvue.com

Posted on June 12, 2013 at 6:16 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jun 12 at 6:39 PM

TRAVIS COUNTY -- The Travis County Sheriff's Office has re-opened an investigation to determine whether Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg is responsible for a hit-and-run accident the same night of her DWI arrest. Lehmberg spent a month seeking treatment in a rehabilitation facility after she served time in jail for DWI.

"There is an on-going investigation, however, there has been no evidence recovered linking Rosemary Lehmberg's vehicle to leaving the scene of the collision,"  said Travis County Sheriff's Office Spokesman Roger Wade.

According to an impound report released by County Attorney David Escamilla, Lehmberg's Lexus had damage to the front, right side of her bumper.

New information from the sheriff's office reveals that the same night of Lehmberg's traffic stop, deputies responded to a separate 911 call a few minutes before, about two miles away from her arrest on FM 620.

Jeff Van Gorp, 22, an Army soldier stationed in at Ft. Hood in Killeen, says he and his friend were clipped by an on-coming SUV along FM 620 around the same time Lehmberg was driving by.

Van Gorp told reporters in Killeen that he is the driver of the vehicle but is not allowed to discuss the case publicly. He believes Lehmberg could be responsible for the crash.

According to Roger Wade, Van Gorp did call 911 but did not report seeing a Lexus and did not give dispatch a license plate number.

Less than 10 minutes before Rosemary Lehmberg was stopped for DWI, Van Gorp called 911 saying, "Heading away from Lake Travis. Was in the left hand lane on that side...This car looked like it was coming into the middle lane, but he just kept coming and clipped the side of my car, popped my tire, busted up my fender a little bit and just kept driving."

A hit-and-run driver left the scene.

"What kind of vehicle was it," the 911 dispatcher asked.

"I don't know ma'am. It's dark. They didn't stop. They just kept going," Van Gorp replied. Later in the 911 call he said, "From the looks of it, it looked like their tire hit me. It was maybe a mid-sized SUV. A newer model because it had the really bright headlights."

The front page of the Van Gorp's hit-and-run crash report says the passengers were Sean Lewis and Jeffrey Van Gorp. On 04/12/2013 at around 22:40 hrs, Deputy McFall, J. #1817 responded to a dispatched call referencing a Collision Leaving the Scene located at 10200 N FM 620. No arrest was made.

All of this came to light after Austin attorney Richard Reed filed a lawsuit with what Travis County sources call "incorrect information."

Reed filed a suit against Lehmberg, claiming "at 10:35 p.m., on Friday, April 12, 2013, a 9-1-1 operator received the first of several 'reckless driver' calls regarding a Lexus traveling Westbound on Ranch Road 620 North in the western part of Travis County toward the city of Lakeway. 

The driver says he was driving eastbound on RR 620 in the vicinity of St. Thomas More Catholic Church, near 10205 RR 620, when his vehicle was struck by an oncoming silver colored Lexus with license plate JLT 094. The driver claims the Lexus 'clipped the tail-end quarter panel of his vehicle.'"

However, Wade contends that Van Gorp reported an SUV, not a Lexus, and never gave a license plate number.

"It was an SUV. She wasn't driving an SUV. We are going back and have been since mid-April, looked at her vehicle for evidence to see if she was involved. We have not found anything so far," Wade said.

The Travis County Sheriff's Office already spent time analyzing paint and damage from Lehmberg's car. They closed the investigation once they realized there was no connection. Wade tells KVUE the investigation into the actual hit and run was never closed, just the part related to Lehmberg. Now the outcry from Van Gorp has sparked deputies to re-open the investigation into the Lehmberg connection aspect.

The night of Lehmberg and Van Gorp's incidents, Mark Weston began following Lehmberg about four minutes after the phone call of the hit and run.

"There were two gentlemen standing outside the vehicle, looking at damage...I thought maybe they hit an animal. I hadn't yet connected it," Weston said.

Weston pulled his blue Subaru Outback behind Lehmberg's car.

"When they initially pulled her over and I was behind her vehicle, I could hear them make notice of damage to her car. Made mention to a hit and run had occurred. So I thought it would come out with everything else," Weston said.

This website hosted by activists against Lehmberg sparked controversy Wednesday morning during an interview with Austin lawyer Kerry O'Brien. O'Brien told an Austin radio station that the driver reported seeing Lehmberg's license plate.

Wade says the sheriff's investigation should be complete by the end of this week.

Statement from Rosemary Lehmberg's Campaign Staff:

Rick Reed and Kerry O'Brien have made certain allegations regarding Rosemary Lehmberg having possibly been involved in an alleged hit and run incident on the night of April 12, 2013. Those assertions are wrong. She was not involved in any hit and run incident. The persons involved in the hit and run incident examined her car that same night and confirmed to investigating officers that the car that hit their car was not Lehmberg’s car. The physical evidence also showed it was not her car. Reed and O’Brien are well-known as political opponents of Lehmberg. Their charges and insinuations are wrong. We suggest that anyone who has a question on the alleged incident contact Travis County Sheriff’s office or the County Attorney’s office, which have already thoroughly investigated those assertions and found that they are without merit.

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