Liberal DA who vowed to get Tom DeLay escapes 'abuse of power' charges

It took only 30 minutes for a grand jury in the liberal enclave of Travis County, Texas, to decide not to indict District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg for abuse of power. The allegations against Lehmberg -- who helped prosecute former House Republican Majority Leader Tom DeLay -- stemmed from her drunken driving arrest last April 12, after which she threatened and insulted jail staff and asked for special treatment. It was all caught on video tape. The grand jury's decision on Friday provoked much discussion over the weekend among the readers of local media outlets. Some wryly (and accurately) observed - only in Travis County.

Lehmberg, a Democratic in her second term, is most famous for having been on the team of former District Attorney Ronnie Earle who, in some clever legal sophistry, convinced a jury that Tom DeLay was guilty of "money laundering" for how he had handled campaign contributions. But a Texas appeals court recently ruled that DeLay had broken no laws; it dismissed the charges, prompting Lehmberg to vow to pursue charges against DeLay.

The grand jury heard the allegations against Lehmberg as a result of a complaint filed by attorney Rick Reed, who ran against Lehmberg for district attorney in 2008. He contended that Lehmberg's behavior amounted to "obstruction," a third-degree felony. (But don't take Reed's word for that; look at the YouTube clips, below, and make up your own mind.)

At various points, a belligerent Lehmberg says, "Y'all are going to be in jail, not me." She demands that jail personnel call the sheriff about letting her go before being booked. "Did you call Greg?" she says repeatedly, referring to Sheriff Greg Hamilton, while behaving like, well, a nasty drunk. Reed, for his part, contended that Lehmberg was guilty of 16 counts of official misconduct, including "coercion of a public servant" and "retaliation." The grand jury was led by Bill Turner, a former Brazos County District Attorney (and Democrat) who was tapped to lead the grand jury probe. 

After her release, Lehmberg apologized, plead guilty to drunken driving (she was nearly three time the legal limit); and then was sentenced to 45 days in jail. She was released for good behavior after serving half that time.

Her refusal to resign prompted Gov. Rick Perry to veto $3.7 million in annual state funding for the Travis County office that prosecutes public corruption cases - an office headed by Lehmberg. Incredibly, a special prosecutor is now investigating claims that Perry abused his powers by defunding the office. You can't make this stuff up, can you?

In obtaining his money laundering indictment against Tom DeLay, District Attorney Ronnie Earle "shopped" his case before three different grand juries in five days -- as DeLay's attorneys put it -- before Earle got the money laundering charges to stick. "It just doesn't smell right," DeLay's attorney Dick DeGuerin said at the time.

But don't expect any grand jury "shopping" to get abuse of power charges to stick against Rosemary Lehmberg -- a woman with strong support among liberal Democrats and the gay community. To borrow a phrase from DeLay's lawyer -- this one doesn't "smell right" either. 

Yes, only in Travis County.


 

It took only 30 minutes for a grand jury in the liberal enclave of Travis County, Texas, to decide not to indict District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg for abuse of power. The allegations against Lehmberg -- who helped prosecute former House Republican Majority Leader Tom DeLay -- stemmed from her drunken driving arrest last April 12, after which she threatened and insulted jail staff and asked for special treatment. It was all caught on video tape. The grand jury's decision on Friday provoked much discussion over the weekend among the readers of local media outlets. Some wryly (and accurately) observed - only in Travis County.

Lehmberg, a Democratic in her second term, is most famous for having been on the team of former District Attorney Ronnie Earle who, in some clever legal sophistry, convinced a jury that Tom DeLay was guilty of "money laundering" for how he had handled campaign contributions. But a Texas appeals court recently ruled that DeLay had broken no laws; it dismissed the charges, prompting Lehmberg to vow to pursue charges against DeLay.

The grand jury heard the allegations against Lehmberg as a result of a complaint filed by attorney Rick Reed, who ran against Lehmberg for district attorney in 2008. He contended that Lehmberg's behavior amounted to "obstruction," a third-degree felony. (But don't take Reed's word for that; look at the YouTube clips, below, and make up your own mind.)

At various points, a belligerent Lehmberg says, "Y'all are going to be in jail, not me." She demands that jail personnel call the sheriff about letting her go before being booked. "Did you call Greg?" she says repeatedly, referring to Sheriff Greg Hamilton, while behaving like, well, a nasty drunk. Reed, for his part, contended that Lehmberg was guilty of 16 counts of official misconduct, including "coercion of a public servant" and "retaliation." The grand jury was led by Bill Turner, a former Brazos County District Attorney (and Democrat) who was tapped to lead the grand jury probe. 

After her release, Lehmberg apologized, plead guilty to drunken driving (she was nearly three time the legal limit); and then was sentenced to 45 days in jail. She was released for good behavior after serving half that time.

Her refusal to resign prompted Gov. Rick Perry to veto $3.7 million in annual state funding for the Travis County office that prosecutes public corruption cases - an office headed by Lehmberg. Incredibly, a special prosecutor is now investigating claims that Perry abused his powers by defunding the office. You can't make this stuff up, can you?

In obtaining his money laundering indictment against Tom DeLay, District Attorney Ronnie Earle "shopped" his case before three different grand juries in five days -- as DeLay's attorneys put it -- before Earle got the money laundering charges to stick. "It just doesn't smell right," DeLay's attorney Dick DeGuerin said at the time.

But don't expect any grand jury "shopping" to get abuse of power charges to stick against Rosemary Lehmberg -- a woman with strong support among liberal Democrats and the gay community. To borrow a phrase from DeLay's lawyer -- this one doesn't "smell right" either. 

Yes, only in Travis County.


 

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