TRAVIS COUNTY - District Attorney Margaret Moore said she did not hear from State Representative Dawnna Dukes (D-Austin) on Tuesday, which means the proposed deal to drop corruption charges against her is off the table.
"Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore announced that she has had no contact today from the attorneys for Representative Dukes," Moore's office said in a statement. "The offer to resolve this matter has expired and is no longer available. We will be ready for trial."
Rene Oliveira, Dukes' attorney, released the following statement to the Austin American-Statesman:
"Because of certain communication issues with her attorneys, my client just received the recent proposal via letter on Monday, July 31, 2017. Ms. Dukes again strongly reiterates her innocence and rejects the latest proposal which has an even more unacceptable condition than the previously rejected proposals. The inexplicable request that she undergo some drug assessment is absurd, and shame on the DA’s office for even suggesting such a condition. Neither Ms. Dukes, nor her attorneys, have any further comment on this matter, and she looks forward to her day in court.”
In addition to her resignation and drug and alcohol assessment, the deal required Dukes to pay restitution in the amount of $3,000 related to charges of tampering with governmental records and abuse of official capacity, pay a $500 fine to the Texas Ethics Commission and waive her right to a speedy trial in any future litigation related to the matter.
"The reason I think it's important to attempt this resolution because it would obtain the immediate resignation. It is my opinion that that's in the best interest of community," explained Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore.
How often are such offers made?
"This does happen in these kinds of cases. The most famous case probably was in the early 1990's when Speaker Gib Lewis was indicted for taking trips from a law firm that had an interest in legislation," explained University of Texas Law Professor Hugh Brady, who serves as the Director of the Legislative Lawyering Clinic.
In that case, Speaker Lewis agreed to not seek re-election as part of his deal.
Brady also explained why such a deal is being offered to a public official.
"I think it's the District Attorney trying to use public resources efficiently. Any time you prosecute a public official, you use a lot of resources, especially if the public official is not willing to resign," Brady noted.
Moore pointed to the nature of the crime and Dukes' clean criminal history as key factors.
A similar proposal - without the alcohol and drug assessment - has been discussed for months.
Moore said part of what's stretched this on for so long was Dukes reneging on her vow to resign earlier this year, instead choosing to fulfill her term.
"The court is not interested in having the trial date move," Moore explained.
If Dukes is found guilty at trial, she could face a maximum punishment of 28 years in prison.
In a sit-down interview with KVUE in January, Dukes explained her reasoning for continuing to serve.
"One would be naive to believe that Dawnna Dukes is the only member up here who experienced that at this time, or anytime in the past. That's all a distraction that people want to bring up. That has nothing to do with what happens on the floor of the House of Representatives," Dukes said.
In a post on her Facebook page, Dukes posted:
It is truly not dignifying this new low that such character assassination has hit in this web woven to influence a court of public opinion. As such, it would be indecorous of me to respond to impertinent allegations. While I appreciate any benevolent concern about my health, there is little need to speculate. My daughter, Leila is my heart, total and complete priority and gives me unconditional love, kisses and strength to fight every bullied battle. On behalf of my daughter, family, loved ones, friends and constituents who have supported me through love and prayer, I refuse to dignify through statement any of the numerous elements alleged. My attorneys continue to advise that defense cases should not be tried in the media. Today's media-storm falls within this area of counsel for which I do heed.
Although some would have you believe that silence is a weakness or admission of guilt, I submit to you that opinion is without merit. At the end of the day, my day, your day, all of our days... it is God who is the judge of all courts. "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11-13(NIV)
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