AUSTIN - State Representative Dawnna Dukes (D-Austin) turned herself in for booking at the Travis County Justice Complex Wednesday afternoon, where she had her mugshot taken and was released.
The Texas Rangers presented the case to the Travis County grand jury Tuesday afternoon, following an investigation conducted by the State Auditor’s office. The investigation stemmed from allegations Dukes asked her staff to work on a festival she helped create years ago.
The jury returned three indictments against Dukes and a total of 15 charges.
"I am very relieved that my attorneys Shaun Clarke...are here today to begin the process of getting out the other side of the story," Dukes told reporters before walking in to the courthouse.
Dukes faces two misdemeanor charges of abuse of official capacity by a public servant for allegations she misused public funds for her personal gain and converted campaign funds to personal use. She's also charged with 13 felony counts of tampering with a governmental record. Investigators say Dukes made 13 false entries on State of Texas travel vouchers, stating she traveled by personal car to the Capitol when she didn't.
The felony counts each bring a punishment of up to two years in a state jail facility and a fine of up to $10,000. The misdemeanor counts each carry a punishment of up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $4,000. All together, Dukes faces up to 28 years in jail.
"The 13 counts in the aggregate allege that Dawnna improperly received somewhere in the range of $790. That's what the felony counts are and that's what we'll be defending against," said Dukes attorney Shaun Clarke.
"You know, the grand jury is a great institution, but they hear one side," Clarke added. "And there's a reason we have trial by jury."
Amid the investigation, Dukes announced in September that she would resign, but the weekend before the 85th Legislatve Session started, she said she had changed her mind and would remain in office.
"I do not intend at all to allow anyone to get me distracted," Dukes said. " Because the children of Texas and Child Protective Services deserve to have my attention, they deserve to have my expertise, they deserve to have me continue to fight for them."
Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore released a statement on the indictment, writing:
“I commend the Texas Rangers for their thorough investigation and professional approach to this case. The Travis County DA’s Public Integrity Unit will continue to work with them, and every other law enforcement agency, to ensure that public officials are held accountable when they fail to abide by the laws of this state.”
Dukes issued the following statement on her Facebook page Wednesday morning:
“On Grand Jury Indictments: 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. On the advice of my attorneys, I have not spoken on any of the allegations since February 2016. As well, since this is now a case in court, on the advice of my attorneys, I will continue to have no further comment. My attorneys and I will respond in court at the appropriate time. Thank you to my constituents, loving family and dear friends for your warm regards, prayers and constant support.”
This is a developing story. Please check back to KVUE.com for updates.
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