Attorney Appointed to Consider Whether Lehmberg Will Face Criminal Charges
A well-respected, veteran Democratic elected district attorney has been appointed to consider a criminal charge filed earlier this month against Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg by a former employee and one-time political rival who believes Lehmberg should be prosecuted for her behavior in the wake of her April drunk driving arrest.
Judge David Peeples, assigned to preside over both a civil lawsuit that seeks Lehmberg's ouster and a potential criminal case, based on allegations made by former prosecutor and 2008 primary candidate for D.A. Rick Reed, on Thursday appointed the former, 29-year veteran Brazos County D.A. Bill Turner as special prosecutor tasked with investigating and potentially prosecuting the criminal complaint made against Lehmberg.
Lehmberg was arrested April 12 for driving drunk in Northwest Travis County. Portions of Lehmberg's overnight stay in the Travis County Jail were recorded by jail staff and reveal an inmate alternately surly and despondent. Lehmberg pleaded guilty to the DWI charge, accepted a 45-day sentence, and once released immediately entered treatment. She made her reappearance at the office – and before the county commissioners – in mid-June.
In his complaint, Reed alleges that Lehmberg threatened correctional officers at the jail in a manner that amounts to felony obstruction or retaliation. A third-degree felony, a single charge is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Lehmberg is simultaneously facing a civil suit seeking her ouster pursuant to a rarely-used provision of the Local Government Code that allows for the removal of certain elected officials for a discrete list of actions – including being drunk on or off duty.
Peeples was appointed by the region's presiding judge (that's Judge Billy Ray Stubblefield in Williamson County) to consider both cases. The civil matter was set for trial in late July, but will now be postponed until the fall. The postponement will give Turner a chance to consider the criminal matter first; if convicted, Lehmberg would be removed from office.