State Rep. Dawnna Dukes, D-Austin, entered not guilty pleas to abuse-of-office charges Friday in Travis County district court.
The 12-term lawmaker pleaded not guilty to tampering with a governmental record and abuse of official capacity by a public servant. Judge Brad Urrutia on Friday set a trial date of Oct. 16.
Dukes told reporters outside the court room: “Why accept a plea when I didn’t do what they are alleging?”
“No one has heard all of the evidence and heard my side,” Dukes said. “There’s been a barrage of print media that has attempted to try me in the court of public opinion, yet the court and the proceedings have not begun and when they do, my attorney will tell the full story, the whole story and show that unequivocally I am not guilty of these charges.”
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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.
In addition, she was indicted on two charges of 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. Those charges allege that Dukes used her legislative staff to work on the African-American Community Heritage Festival and be a live-in nanny for her daughter.
Dukes surprised legislators and her constituents in January when she decided not to resign from the post she has held since 1995. Not resigning allowed Dukes to add $3,220 per year to her state pension.
Dukes has faced criticism for missing votes and being absent from the House floor. She was not in attendance when the House voted on the final budget.
When asked if she was going to run for re-election, Dukes said: "That is a very strong possibility."
Dukes arrived more than two hours late for her 9 a.m. hearing. She said she didn’t find out until Thursday night that she needed to show up to court, her father had recently had surgery and her daughter’s babysitter — scheduled to arrive at 7 a.m. — failed to show up.
Urrutia told Dukes he appreciated her communicating why she was tardy but “the sooner you get here, the sooner you’re out of here.”
Read related Tribune coverage:
State Rep. Dawnna Dukes, D-Austin, has missed more than 100 record votes during the current legislative session, the most of the 150 members of the House, according to a Tribune analysis of data from a legislative analytics website. [link]
A Travis County judge denied a request to dismiss four of the 13 felony charges against state Rep. Dawnna Dukes, D-Austin. [link]
State Rep. Dawnna Dukes confirmed to the Texas Tribune in an email that she is not resigning, months after announcing plans to resign in January. [link]