DA dangles deal for Dukes

Rep. Dawanna Dukes
Rep. Dawanna Dukes sworn during the opening of the 79th Texas Legislature. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

The time is ticking for scandal-ridden state Rep. Dawnna Dukes to take a deal that would allow her to walk away from criminal corruption charges.

The Austin Democrat has until the end of the day Tuesday to resign from office as part of an offer from the Travis County District Attorney to drop 13 felony charges and two misdemeanors against her, the Austin American-Statesman reported.

From the Statesman:

Dukes did not respond to messages left by the American-Statesman on Monday morning.

She told reporters in June after pleading not guilty that she would not take any plea deals and instead will proceed to trial on Oct. 16.

The deal expires at the close of the business day on Tuesday and will not be re-offered, according to Justin Wood of the district attorney’s office.

As part of the deal, Dukes would have to undergo drug and alcohol tests, as well as addiction counseling. She would also have to pay $3,000 in restitution in connection with charges of tampering with governmental records and abuse of official capacity, as well as fines to the Texas Ethics Commission.

At the heart of the case against Dukes are charges that she collected per diem pay in 2014 on days when she did not actually travel to the Capitol. She’s also charged with using her legislative staff for personal chores.

The deal being offered Dukes is better than any offers that have been made public for other elected officials who have been arrested recently.

Attorney General Ken Paxton is fighting felony charges stemming from an accusation that he misled investors in a technology startup company while serving in the Texas Legislature. No deal for dropped charges in return for resigning has ever been made public. Paxton’s trial is scheduled to begin on Dec. 11 in Harris County.

State Sen. Carlos Uresti was indicted earlier this year on fraud and bribery charges. No trial date has been set, and there have been no whispers of any deal in the works.

In Houston, community college Trustee Chris Oliver has pleaded guilty in a pay-for-play bribery scheme. No court records suggest that prosecutors offered Oliver a deal like Dukes is being offered.

Just because Dukes has been made an offer, there is no guarantee she will accept. Indeed, she has rejected a similar offer made in the past.

If found guilty at trial, Dukes could face up to 28 years in prison.

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Trent is an award-winning editor and reporter, who has previously worked The Denver Post, The (Nashville) Tennessean, and the San Diego Union-Tribune. Most recently, he was the investigative producer for Houston’s KTRK-TV ABC-13. He was also the editor and founder of Texas Watchdog, a ground-breaking news group that paved the way for this project. Trent is a teacher of journalism skills, and has shown hundreds of reporters and citizen-journalists how to use public records, databases and journalism tools to keep a watchful eye on their own local government.



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