Rep. Dawnna Dukes seeks to get four of 13 charges dismissed

AUSTIN - A Travis County judge will decide next month whether to dismiss some of the felony charges against State Representative Dawnna Dukes (D-Austin).

With her attorneys by her side, Dukes entered the Travis County Justice Complex Wednesday and headed straight into the 450th courtroom.

Dukes appeared before Judge Brad Urrutia for a hearing to dismiss four of the 13 felony tampering with governmental record charges against her.

According to the Travis County District Attorney's Office, on Oct. 3, 2013, Oct. 30, 2013, Dec. 5, 2013, and Jan. 8, 2014, Dukes instructed her staff to fill out travel vouchers for coming to work at the Capitol when she apparently didn't. Dukes then signed and submitted those forms.

When Dukes was indicted on Jan. 17, 1017, the three-year statute of limitations had run out on these charges.

"It was a very simple legal motion," said Dukes' attorney Dane Ball. 

But Travis County Assistant District Attorney Susan Oswalt argued it's not that cut and dry.

During the hearing, she explained the District Attorney's officer was ready to indict Dukes before the statute ran out, but her former attorney, Michael Heiskel, asked them to hold off until January so Dukes could resign from office to get a larger pension from the State.

Oswalt said Dukes signed a waiver to the statute of limitations last September with this understanding. While there are emails between attorneys stating all this, there wasn't a formal agreement.

Gregg Cox, the former director of special prosecutions for the DA's office, testified Heiskel told him he hoped the new DA would drop all charges.

In January, Dukes didn't resign from office and instead was sworn in for her 12th term. One week later, she was indicted on 13 counts of tampering with a government document, a felony offense punishable by up to two years in jail and a $10,000 fine.

Dukes was also charged with two counts of abuse of official capacity by a public servant: a misdemeanor offense punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of $4,000.

Judge Urrutia canceled a hearing on the lesser charges, scheduled for Thursday, and announced he would make a ruling on or before Dukes' next hearing date on April 19. He also said Dukes would not have to be present for that pre-trial hearing. 

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