DA's arrest prompts calls to move corruption unit


Associated Press

Posted on April 26, 2013 at 1:06 PM

Updated Saturday, Apr 27 at 1:32 PM

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The drunken driving arrest of the Travis County district attorney, who is shown in jailhouse videos telling officers, "You have just ruined my career," prompted renewed Republican calls Friday to uproot the high-profile office that prosecutes public corruption in the state.

Notable cases by the public integrity unit in the Travis County district attorney's office include a conviction against former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay in 2010. More recently, prosecutors in the unit are investigating questionable spending in the state's $3 billion cancer-fighting agency.

Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg was arrested April 13 on drunken driving charges. Authorities say her blood alcohol level was nearly three times the legal limit, and jailhouse video released to the media shows the elected Democrat looking unsteady and verbally sparring with officers.

"Y'all are going to be in jail, not me," Lehmberg says at one point.

Republican state Rep. Phil King, invoking a rare personal privilege on the House floor, told a hushed chamber Friday that Lehmberg's behavior following her arrest should compel the state to remove the state's public corruption unit from Travis County.

"The behavior wasn't one of remorse. It wasn't one of a mistake," King said. "People can make mistakes. What concerns me is the contempt and disrespect for the law and the office."

Lehmberg has pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated and has said she will not resign.

Rudy Magallanes, a district attorney spokesman, did not immediately return a call Friday.

King suggested he would be satisfied if Lehmberg would resign. He did not offer what agency or department might be best suited to absorb the public integrity unit.

Voters have long elected Democrats to the position of Travis County district attorney, and Republicans have accused that office of waging political vendettas through the public integrity unit. That criticism was most pronounced as the office prosecuted DeLay on money-laundering charges.