Rep. Dawnna Dukes indicted on 15 criminal charges

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Photo Credit: Caleb Kuntz | Daily Texan Staff

A grand jury indicted state Rep. Dawnna Dukes, D-Austin, over misuse of legislative money and staff Tuesday, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

Dukes is indicted on 13 felony charges of tampering with public records and two misdemeanors of abusing official capacity, the Statesman reported Wednesday.

Dukes is charged with one misdemeanor for using legislative staff for personal means, and the Statesman said Dukes gave a staffer a raise so they could have gas money to drive Dukes’ daughter to school.

The other misdemeanor is for using her campaign contributions for her nonprofit event, the African-American Community Heritage Festival. The event prompted an investigation by Texas Rangers after her staff said they were worked full-time for it, according to the Statesman.

The 13 felony charges are for receiving pay by the state even though she had not traveled to the Capitol to do business, according to the Statesman. Legislators can be paid while the Legislature is not in session if they go to the Capitol for business, but Dukes is charged with requesting pay for times she did not do so.

Each felony charge carries a $10,000 fine and a maximum of two years in prison, and the misdemeanors each carry a $4,000 fine and a maximum of one year in prison.

Dukes returned to the Legislature on Tuesday for her 12th term despite previously announced plans in September to retire on opening day.

The representative of East Austin, Manor and Pflugerville said she would step down for medical reasons caused by a car crash in 2013.

However, on Jan. 7, Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore told the Statesman Dukes would not step down. Dukes told KVUE her constituents persuaded her to return.

"Everyone kept saying, ‘Dawnna, you need to be back, and you know in your heart you want to,’" Dukes told KVUE.

Last week, Moore met with Texas Rangers over whether to seek an indictment against Dukes.

Last Monday, Dukes confirmed to the Texas Tribune in an email that she will be present when the session gaveled in, but potential replacements vying for House District 46 in case of a special election said they will keep campaigning.

Cole’s Democratic opponent Jose “Chito” Vela III kicked off his campaign recently, and Vela still urged Dukes to resign.

“Given her absence during the previous session, her ongoing health problems, and her pending criminal chargers, it is doubtful that Rep. Dukes can continue to effectively represent the people of House District 46,” Vela said in a press release. “I renew my call for Rep. Dukes to immediately resign her position.”