Rosemary Lehmberg, District Attorney of Travis County Texas and head of the Public Integrity Unit in Texas, was arrested for drunk driving in April, 2013. See the police video on YouTube.
Lehmberg initially claimed that she had been drinking at a friend’s house just before her arrest, but later claimed that she had just imbibed a few glasses of wine at a movie theater. In the midst of all her lies, her threats, her abusive treatment of the law enforcement officers that she leads, and her attempts to abuse the power of her office for special treatment the night she was arrested, Lehmberg had a brief moment of clarity when she slurred, “My career is over.” But was it?
The Travis County DA holds the chief responsibility for enforcing the government and election code in Texas as head of the Public Integrity Unit for Texas. In the immediate aftermath of her drunken behavior it was not surprising that the Austin Police Association called for Lehmberg’s resignation. A petition filed by Travis County Attorney David Escamilla also called for her removal on the grounds that her public intoxication violated Texas Government Code.
In court Lehmberg and her attorneys argued, that despite the fact that on the night of her arrest her blood alcohol content was three times the legal limit, and that even though she had lied to and verbally abused the law enforcement personnel, and although she had sought to use the power of her office to seek special treatment under the same laws she is entrusted to uphold, she had not been proven to demonstrate “habitual drunkenness.” Although she had already been convicted of drunk driving and had spent several weeks in jail, this argument prevailed and Lehmberg was allowed to remain in office.
Because of her actions, Lehmberg clearly forfeited her moral authority to serve as the district attorney and to lead the Public Integrity Unit. This is why in June of 2013, Texas Governor Rick Perry threatened to veto the $7.5 million 2 year appropriations for the Public Integrity Unit unless Lehmberg resigned. She refused to do so and Perry, as promised, line item vetoed the funding of the unit. This action led a liberal group named Texans for Public Justice to complain to the Public Integrity Unit that Perry had violated the state law which prohibits the coercion of a public official. On August 15, 2014, a Travis County Grand Jury indicted Perry of just that.
What an ironic twist this was. Lehmberg was able to keep her job after being charged and convicted of drunk driving and Gov. Perry was indicted for exercising his lawful and constitutional authority to veto an appropriation. This indictment took place in Austin, Texas which lies within Travis County. Travis County is the most liberal county in the state, as liberal as Massachusetts.
This indictment is so bizarre that even leading liberals across the country have openly criticized it.
President Obama’s own political strategist, David Axelrod, called the indictment of Gov. Perry “sketchy.”
Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, who made clear he would never vote for Rick Perry, said the indictment was driven by politics and is representative of “what happens in totalitarian societies.”
The liberal commentator Ruth Marcus at the Washington Post described the indictment as “shockingly skimpy.” She added: “to read the language of the criminal statutes is to understand how far the prosecutor had to stretch to fit Perry’s acts within the contours of criminal violation.”
This is not the first time the Public Integrity Unit in Travis County has been found to overreach by targeting Republicans. The unit was created under a highly partisan Democrat, former Travis County DA, Ronnie Earle, who brought an unsuccessful charge against former U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and another trumped up charge against former Congressman Tom DeLay. This latest chapter in the Public Integrity Unit’s partisan history leads to the conclusion that it should be totally abolished and its function transferred to the Texas Attorney General’s office. Expect the Texas Legislature to do this when it convenes next year.
By attacking Governor Perry, the local democrats have overplayed their hand and have actually boosted his popularity ratings and given him the opportunity to exhibit strength and leadership, something our country desperately needs.
Steven Hotze, MD
President, Conservative Republicans of Texas