Dawnna Dukes Indicted on Charges of Misuse of Public Funds, Tampering with Public Records
Dawnna Dukes has been indicted by a Travis County grand jury in relation to charges that she misused public resources and tampered with public records.
The three charges accuse the longtime Austin state representative of using staff time and campaign funds for personal purposes, as well as tampering with records to gain reimbursement.
Dukes was formally indicted on two counts of abuse of official capacity and one count of tampering with public records on Wednesday.
A release from Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore said Dukes is accused of 13 separate instances of tampering with a governmental record in that indictment. Each of those counts are punishable by up to a two-year state jail sentence and a $10,000 fine.
The additional two indictments for abuse of official capacity allege that she used both public money and campaign money for personal purposes. Both are class A misdemeanors and are punishable by a maximum one-year jail sentence and a $4,000 fine.
Dukes responded to the indictments on Facebook, saying she was disappointed and that she would plead not guilty to the charges:
Last September, Dukes announced she would retire from her post as House District 46 state representative, but her name still appeared on the November ballot and she handily won the seat. While many expected the state to call a special election for the seat, Dukes announced earlier this month that she intended to return to her position.
Dukes' challenger in the November election, Republican Gabriel Nila, called for her to step down and said the number of counts leveled against her for abuse of office was "staggering."
The indictment of Democratic State Representative Dawnna Dukes is not surprising to many. The number of charges for the abuse of office is a staggering number that shows the level of integrity and care that Dukes has for her position and those who she represents. I will continue the call for Dukes to step down from her position as our Representative so she can concentrate on her family and legal issues and give the community an opportunity to bring in a person who will fight for the rights of all the residents of HD46, like I have pledged to do since I ran against her. Our residents and district have been humiliated and embarrassed by the actions of Dawnna Dukes. My team and I have developed a plan to help unify our community so we can move forward from the actions and blemish that Dawnna Dukes has brought down upon us.
Chito Vela, who's one of several Democrats planning to run for Dukes’ open seat in a special election, also called for Dukes to resign.
“She needs to put the interest of the constituents first and foremost. She lost her credibility and the confidence of her constituents after promising to resign and then refusing to do so,” he told KUT. “And then, given her absence during the previous session, her continuing health problems and, now, these pending criminal charges, I just don’t see how Rep. Dukes can continue to effectively represent the people of the district.”
Another Democratic hopeful for the District 49 seat, former Austin City Council Member Sheryl Cole, echoed her willingness to run, but stopped short of calling for Dukes’ resignation.
“That’s entirely Dawnna’s decision,” she told KUT. “I just think there’s too much at stake and everybody’s focused on these issues and not the real issues, and that’s unfortunate for the district.”
This afternoon, Dukes spoke to reporters briefly on the way to being booked and processed at the Travis County Criminal Justice Center.
You can read the full release from the Travis County District Attorney's office below.
This story is developing and we will update this post as more information becomes available.