The Austin Chronicle

Lehmberg Saga Continues

By Jordan Smith, May 17, 2013, News

With good time credits under her belt, Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg was released from county jail on May 9 after serving 20 days of a 45-day sentence for drunk driving. On Monday, she released a somewhat vaguely-worded statement saying that she is now seeking professional help "on the advice of one of the foremost experts in this region concerning the issues that [led] to my behavior the night I was arrested for driving while intoxicated." The expert has "concluded that I am 'fully able to perform [my] duties'" as D.A., reads the emailed statement, and that "I am 'not at risk of injuring the public interest in the performance of [my] duties.'" "I have a 'normal mental status exam,'" the statement continues, in language apparently designed to address directly the pending civil suit that seeks her ouster.

Lehmberg was picked up April 12 in Northwest Travis County after a motorist called 911 to report an apparently intoxicated driver weaving along the road and crossing over the midline into oncoming traffic; the driver was Lehmberg, who several hours later registered a blood-alcohol content of .239 – nearly three times the legal limit. Lehmberg pleaded guilty, took her sentence, and now will "attend treatment for a brief period," according to the statement, sent out Monday night. Until she returns, First Assistant District Attorney John Neal said after Lehmberg's release from jail, the office will carry on as usual and "will continue to efficiently serve the needs of the citizens of Travis County."

Meanwhile, the campaign to try to force Lehmberg's resignation (which she has said won't happen) continues to be waged by local employment attorney Kerry O'Brien, who last month was first to file a civil suit pursuant to a rarely-used provision of the Local Government Code that allows for the ouster of certain public officials for misconduct, incompetency, or "intoxication on or off duty." O'Brien's case was dismissed, and a new suit was filed by County Attorney David Escamilla, and O'Brien is trying to intervene, arguing that his voice and those of Facebook users who "like" his Remove Rosemary Lehmberg page are the voice of the community, indignant that she hasn't yet fired herself. On Monday O'Brien alerted media to a rally being held at lunchtime at the East 12th Street I-35 overpass (with another slated for Thursday morning rush hour in Northwest Austin) where folks would be dropping a banner asking drivers to "honk if Rosemary should resign." (For more, see "What Happens Next?" May 3.)

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