"Judge to rule next month on dismissing some charges against Rep. Dawnna Dukes" was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.
*Editor's note: this story has been updated throughout
A Travis County judge has delayed ruling until next month on whether to dismiss four of the 13 felony charges against state Rep. Dawnna Dukes, D-Austin.
District Judge Brad Urrutia heard arguments Wednesday afternoon from the Travis County District Attorney's office and Dukes' lawyers about whether the state's statute of limitations had run out before Dukes was indicted on four counts related to travel vouchers she submitted in 2013 and 2014.
Urrutia said he would make his ruling April 19.
"Between now and then we're going to continue preparing for the trial, and that's really all I can say right now," said Dane Ball, one of Dukes' attorneys.
In January, a Travis County grand jury indicted Dukes on 13 counts of tampering with a governmental record, a felony punishable by up to two years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000. These charges are based on allegations that Dukes made false entries on travel vouchers to obtain money for expenses she was not entitled to, Moore said in a January news release.
Two separate indictments were also handed down for abuse of official capacity by a public servant, a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $4,000. These "relate to allegations that Rep. Dukes misused public funds for her personal gain and that she converted campaign funds to personal use," Moore said.
Dukes, an 11-term representative, previously said in a Facebook post that she will plead not guilty to all charges.
Prosecutor Susan Oswald said the state had been prepared to move forward with a grand jury proceeding in October but had delayed when Dukes said she intended to resign from office in January.
"The reason she wanted to wait that long was so she would receive a bigger pension from the state of Texas," Oswald said.
Not resigning allowed Dukes to add $3,220 per year to her state pension, according to previous Texas Tribune reporting.
Gregg Cox, the former director of special prosecutions for the district attorney's office, testified that in September, Duke's team had agreed to waive the statute of limitations if she resigned, which kept the grand jury at bay for several months.
Cox said Dukes' lawyers also hoped to discuss the case again when newly-elected Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore took office.
"[Duke's lawyer] was very hopeful that we might consider not moving forward on the case, but we made no promises or guarantees in return," Cox said.
On Tuesday, Dukes referred questions about the case to her attorneys and said she is focused on her legislative duties, particularly helping to draft the Department of Family and Protective Services budget through her role on the House Appropriations Committee.
"It is of utmost importance to my constituents, children of Texas, Appropriations Committee, and the Texas House that my full and unequivocal focus is to details at the Legislature," she said in a written statement.
Read related Tribune coverage:
- Dukes’ presence in the House is a sensitive topic for her colleagues in the Travis County delegation because of the 12-term Democrat’s legal issues
- A grand jury has indicted state Rep. Dawnna Dukes, D-Austin, on abuse-of-office charges, the Travis County District Attorney's office said Wednesday. She could face up to 28 years in jail and fines of up to $138,000.
- As a case against State Rep. Dawnna Dukes is scheduled to get a grand jury hearing on Tuesday, some of her constituents worry the case will distract her from fulfilling their needs.