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The Brief: Dawnna Dukes' case heads to grand jury

Travis County prosecutors will present evidence today to a grand jury and seek an indictment against State Rep. Dawnna Dukes. Here's what you need to know.

State Rep. Dawnna Dukes, D-Austin, speaks with media following the presentation of a $15,000 scholarship donation to Huston-…

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What you need to know

Later today, Travis County prosecutors will present evidence to a grand jury seeking an indictment against State Rep. Dawnna Dukes, D-Austin. She could face charges for abuse of official capacity and tampering with public records. This case has been ongoing for a while now, so here's what you need to know:

  • Dukes has been in hot water ever since 2016 reports alleged she used state workers for personal projects and errands. Alleged examples include the African American Community Heritage Festival, "smoothie runs" and vet visits. One staffer reportedly moved in with Dukes for three months to help her care for her daughter. Her staff also accused her of seeking travel reimbursement she was not entitled to. 
  • After the reports and an official investigation, Dukes said she intended to resign. She cited "health concerns" following a 2013 car crash as the reason for her expected resignation. It was that same car crash that caused her to miss most of the legislative session in 2015. But she surprised everyone — even her own spokesman — earlier this month when she changed her mind. Just one day before the first day of the 85th Texas Legislative session, Dukes told the Tribune she would not resign.
  • She declined to comment ahead of today's hearing. When asked about it at the state Capitol's Martin Luther King Jr. celebration on Monday, she said: "Today is MLK day. I'm talking about MLK, and I'm here to represent the district. Those are the only things that will be discussed today."
  • Jury members will meet for an hour today. What happens next is anybody’s guess. Though the grand jury will meet and hear evidence behind closed doors, you can follow Texas Tribune reporter Alex Samuels for updates.

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Other stories we're watching today:

News from home

Are you a Texan going to Washington, D.C., for Donald Trump's inauguration? The Texas Tribune is working on a story about the inauguration and would like to hear from Texans traveling to Washington for the event. Tell us about your plans here, and a reporter may contact you.

What we're reading

(Links below lead to outside websites; paywall content noted with $) 

The fiery vaccination debate ignites again in the Texas LegislatureKERA News

TSC forced to close associate nursing program, The Brownsville Herald 

Abilene native Fraser ends long legislative careerAbilene Reporter News

In Texas, a test of whether the Voting Rights Act still has teethThe New York Times ($)

Cubans seeking entry into U.S. arrive too late, Houston Chronicle ($)

Can a new leader help Democrats be relevant in the Texas House? The Dallas Morning News ($)

Texas may snuff out smoking for anyone younger than 21, The Dallas Morning News ($)

Photo of the day

Rick Augusta cuts 57-year-old Joseph Frederick's hair at Delton's Pecan Street Barber Shop in Pflugerville on Sunday. Asked about State Rep. Dawnna Dukes, Frederick said his representative's time had "come and gone." Photo by Laura Skelding. See more photos on our Instagram account. 

Quote to note

"Isn't that the irony of how Donald Trump is president right now? We kinda shove people down and make them take their weird beliefs and put them in a closet versus having open dialogue."

Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa, founder and president of New-Wave Feminists, about being removed as a partner for the Women's March on Washington.

The Brief is written and compiled by your morning news baristas, Bobby Blanchard and Sanya Mansoor. If you have feedback or questions, please email thebrief@texastribune.org. We're a nonprofit newsroom, and count on readers like you to help power newsletters like this. Did you like what you read today? Show your appreciation by becoming a member or making a donation today.

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