Rosemary Lehmberg

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Rosemary Lehmberg
District Attorney for Travis County, Texas
In office
2009 – January 3, 2017
Preceded by Ronnie Earle
Succeeded by Margaret Moore
Personal details
Born 1949 (age 68–69)
Taylor, Texas, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Alma mater University of Texas at Austin
Saint Mary's University School of Law
Occupation Attorney

Rosemary Lehmberg (born c. 1949) is an American attorney who was the District Attorney of Travis County, which includes the capital city of Austin, Texas. She began working in the District Attorney's office in 1976.[1] She headed many Divisions of the DA's office, establishing the Travis County Children's Advocacy Center, and was called "The Best Lawyer for Children's Issues" by The Austin Chronicle.[2] In 2009, she became the first female District Attorney in Travis County, and has been cited by her supporters as heading one of the best DA offices in the United States.[3] Lehmberg served eight years as Travis County’s district attorney before retiring in January 2017.[4]

In 2013, she was arrested for and pleaded guilty to drunk driving. She was sentenced to forty-five days in jail.[5] According to Lehmberg's lawyer, David Sheppard, Lehmberg's sentence was "without doubt the harshest sentence anyone has ever received for first time DWI" in Travis County.[6] Video of her detainment and extremely inebriated and aggressive behavior was released to the public. Governor Rick Perry demanded Lehmberg's resignation, and stated that if she did not step down, he would use his line-item veto power to cut all funding to the Public Accountability Office which is under Lehmberg's authority. Lehmberg refused, and Governor Perry vetoed the office's funding. Perry was indicted for this action but was later cleared of all charges.

Biography[edit]

Career[edit]

Born in Taylor, Texas, Lehmberg graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in Natural Sciences and received her law degree from Saint Mary's University School of Law in San Antonio. She ran a private practice until 1976 when she began working for the DA's office in Travis County. She worked in the 167th District Court as a trial attorney, was promoted multiple times and headed specialized legal divisions. She became the Director of the Family Justice Division in 1988, and started the Travis County Children's Advocacy Center (since the Center for Child Protection). She was named the Best Lawyer for Children's Issues by The Austin Chronicle. She was the First Assistant District Attorney from 1997 to 2009, and became the first female District Attorney in Travis County in 2009.[2] In 2010, Lehmberg stated that the Hate Crimes Task Force she had started would be expanded because the case of the beating of two gay men in Austin remained unsolved.[7] In 2011, Lehmberg denied that the sentencing of former House Representative Tom DeLay to three years in prison was a form of political payback by her office. DeLay's conviction was reversed on appeal; the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals found that prosecutors had insufficient evidence to prove their case.[8][9]

Arrest[edit]

In April 2013, motorists saw Lehmberg driving in a bike lane for over a mile on southbound FM 620, and at one point veering into oncoming traffic on Comanche trail.[1][10] When pulled over at an Austin church parking lot, police discovered vodka on her passenger side seat.[1] Her blood alcohol level was .239, three times the legal limit.[1] Lehmberg was taken into custody and while incarcerated officials claimed she was "uncooperative" and "aggressive" and had to be restrained with leg irons, handcuffs, and a spit mask.[1] However, officers have stated they did not observe any spitting, and one jailer stated it was used to protect her identity.[11][12] Video of her detention were released to the public by an Austin radio station.[13]

DA Lehmberg was charged with a DWI, to which she pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 45 days in jail and a $4,000 fine, ultimately serving 22 days of that sentence.[1][14] Her driver's license was suspended for 180 days and she waived her right to appeal.[1] Lehmberg wrote a letter from jail to residents of Travis County apologizing for her behavior, vowing to get professional help and to not seek a third term in 2016.[15] A few days after the arrest, Austin attorney Kerry O'Brien filed a civil lawsuit to remove Lehmberg from office under a rarely used state law that allows for removal of certain public officers for "intoxication." In June 2013, Rick Reed, former prosecutor, filed a criminal complaint against Lehmberg for abuse of office, due to her threats and apparent attempts to obtain special treatment on the night of her arrest.[3][16][17] The grand jury eventually concluded her actions while in custody did not constitute official misconduct and Lehmberg was no-billed. The civil suit went to trial in December 2013, and the judge declined to remove her from office.

Post-incarceration events[edit]

Then Texas Governor Rick Perry demanded Lehmberg step down from her position or he would veto $7.5 million of State funding for the Public Corruption office which Lehmberg worked for.[14] Meetings were held between Travis County officials and Governor Perry's representatives in order to reach an agreement to keep the funding going.[18] Perry's representatives indicated that if Lehmberg stepped down, funding would be restored and her top lieutenant would be allowed to succeed her. Later the offer was changed, so she would be allowed to work at the DA's office in another capacity.[18][19] When Lehmberg refused, Perry vetoed the office's funding, stating "The person charged with ultimate responsibility of that unit has lost the public's confidence."[14] Travis County helped to pay for the office's funding, but several staffers were laid off.[14]

As a result of the veto, a group called Texans for Public Justice filed an ethics complaint against Governor Perry, claiming the veto was an illegal attempt to coerce a public official to resign.[20] Lehmberg was not involved in reviewing the ethics complaint and a special prosecutor was appointed to review the claims instead. On August 15, 2014, a grand jury indicted Perry on two counts.[20][21] Perry vowed to fight the prosecution, and on February 22, 2016, more than a year after he left office, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted Perry's pretrial habeas petition and dismissed all criminal charges against him.[22]

Attorney Kerry O'Brien filed a complaint with the Texas Ethics Commission on August 8, 2014, alleging that during Lehmberg's 2013 legal battles she paid her attorney using improper and unreported campaign contributions.[17]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g O'Rourke, Ciara (2014-04-19). "As Lehmberg heads to jail, new details about booking emerge". Austin American-Statesman. Retrieved 2014-08-18. 
  2. ^ a b "Meet the DA: Rosemary Lehmberg, Travis County, Texas". Travis County State Government ]. 2015-06-04. Retrieved 2015-06-04. 
  3. ^ a b O'Rourke, Ciara (2013-04-25). "Lawyers voice support for Lehmberg". Austin American-Statesman. Retrieved 2014-08-18. 
  4. ^ Collins Walsh, Sean. "Three Democrats vie to replace DA Rosemary Lehmberg". Austin American-Statesman. Retrieved 4 January 2017. 
  5. ^ O'Rourke, Ciara (2013-04-19). "As Lehmberg heads to jail, new details about booking emerge". Austin American-Statesman. Retrieved 2014-01-27. 
  6. ^ "Lehmberg Attorney Reaction". Austin American-Statesman. Retrieved 2016-02-26. 
  7. ^ Waugh, Anna (2012-04-26). "Lesbian Travis County DA who secured conviction in DeLay case eyes 2nd term". Dallas Voice. Retrieved 2014-08-19. 
  8. ^ McKinley Jr., James (January 10, 2011). "DeLay Sentenced to 3 Years in Conspiracy and Money-Laundering Case". The New York Times. 
  9. ^ "DeLay Cleared By Texas High Court In Money-Laundering Case". Law360. Retrieved 2016-02-24. 
  10. ^ Plohetski, Tony (2013-04-13). "Travis County DA Rosemary Lehmberg says she doesn't plan to resign". Austin American-Statesman. Retrieved 2014-08-18. 
  11. ^ O'Rourke, Ciara (2013-04-19). "Jail report says DA was handcuffed and 'leg-ironed'". Austin American-Statesman. Retrieved 2014-08-21. 
  12. ^ Zennie, Michael (2014-04-18). "Drunk, belligerent, threatening officers and kicking the door to her cell: The ugly video of Texas district attorney's DWI arrest that's behind Governor Rick Perry's indictment". Daily Mail. Retrieved 2014-08-21. 
  13. ^ Bennett, Scott (2014-08-17). "Rosemary Lehmberg's video from the Travis County Jail has gone viral since Friday…". KOKE-FM. Retrieved 2014-08-20. 
  14. ^ a b c d Fernandez, Manny (2014-08-15). "Gov. Rick Perry of Texas Is Indicted on Charge of Abuse of Power". The New York Times. Retrieved 2014-08-18. 
  15. ^ Smith, Jordan (May 3, 2013). "What Happens Next?". The Austin Chronicle. Retrieved 2014-08-18. 
  16. ^ Smith, Jordan (June 3, 2013). "More Trouble for Rosemary Lehmberg". The Austin Chronicle. Retrieved 2014-08-18. 
  17. ^ a b Morris, Angela (2014-08-12). "Solo Who Sued to Remove D.A. Rosemary Lehmberg Files Complaint With Texas Ethics Commission". Texas Lawyer. Retrieved 2014-08-19. 
  18. ^ a b Fikac, Peggy (2014-08-17). "Perry case built with staffers, lawmakers". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 2014-08-18. 
  19. ^ Hicks, Nolan (2014-04-24). "Perry aides offered Lehmberg a job for resignation". San Antonio Express-News. Retrieved 2014-08-18. 
  20. ^ a b "Perry responds to indictment, calls it a political 'farce,' vows to defend himself". Fox News. 2014-08-16. Retrieved 2014-08-18. 
  21. ^ Ramsey, Ross (2014-08-15). "For Rick Perry, it's not the crime, it's the politics". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2014-08-18. 
  22. ^ Federalist staff (2016-02-24). "Texas Court Dismisses Indictment Against Former Gov. Rick Perry". The Federalist (website). Retrieved 2016-02-24. 

External links[edit]