All charges dropped against State Rep. Dawnna Dukes

Dawnna Dukes in court on Sept. 26, 2017 (KXAN Photo)
Dawnna Dukes in court on Sept. 26, 2017 (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — All the charges levied against State Rep. Dawnna Dukes have officially been dropped or resolved out of the courtroom, according to court documents.

The Travis County District Attorney’s Office dropped the charges Monday due to insufficient evidence and in the “interest of justice.” The documents also suggest the DA’s office won’t re-file the charges.

Dukes’ attorney Dane Ball said the representative was “innocent from day one.” He continued, “She could have resigned to avoid these charges, but had the courage to fight for the truth. The state’s dismissal says it all — we would have won all three trials. We’re glad Representative Dukes can get back to serving her constituents without the distraction of these baseless charges.”

At the beginning of the year, Dukes, D-Austin, was indicted on 13 felony charges on the offense of tampering with a governmental record. The DA’s Office says these charges are based on allegations that Dukes made false entries on 13 different occasions on state of Texas travel vouchers, in order to obtain per diem pay in between legislative sessions.

Dukes’ original attorney Shaun Clarke says the charges accuse his client of claiming a reimbursement in the amount of $61.50 to which she allegedly was not entitled; the 13 counts totaled $799.50.

The state based its case on written rules from the House Business Office, which it believed required representatives to work in the State Capitol in order to be reimbursed. It discovered the office’s executive director had told the defense that physically traveling to the Capitol building is not required.

“After a thorough examination of the evidence available to us, we have determined we cannot continue the lawsuit,” a statement from District Attorney Margaret Moore said. Had the DA’s Office known the actual practice of the House Business Office, it would not have filed charges.

Two separate indictments were for misdemeanor offenses of abuse of official capacity by a public servant. The charges relate to allegations that Dukes misused public funds for her personal gain, and that she converted campaign funds to personal use.

The state moved to dismiss these charges because Dukes paid $1,340 to reimburse Texas for the salary she paid to her legislative staffer for transporting her daughter. Dukes also paid $500 for a fine owed to the Texas Ethics Commission and restored $5,230.74 to her campaign account.

In a statement on her Facebook page, Dukes thanked her legal team, who she called “Gladiators in Suits,” and her supportive family.

“I am grateful to have been fully exonerated and appreciative that the District Attorney and Judge Brad Urrita agreed that I was innocent (as I had proclaimed all along),” the post stated.

Dukes said she looks forward to continuing to represent District 46, which includes east Austin, Manor and Pflugerville.

“It has been a long battle, but one in which I never doubted the outcome,” Dukes wrote. “To God who sits in judgement of all, I give the glory.”

Over the summer, the district attorney presented Dukes with a plea deal that would have dropped the corruption charges if Dukes resigned and submitted to a drug and alcohol test, along with possible treatment, and paid a fine of $3,000 in relation to her alleged lesser crimes. Dukes failed to respond to the deal.

In mid-September, the state put the felony case against Dukes on hold while moving forward with the misdemeanor case. However, a few days later, the judge agreed to move the felony trial date to December to give prosecutors enough time to prepare their case.

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