Corruption Charges Face Big Changes
This has been a big year for public corruption and related laws. Two governors of large states saw charges against them reversed, and the laws used to indict them severely curtailed. This trend began with the former Texas Governor who was charged with coercion and abuse of power under Texas law.
The case against Texas’s longest serving governor started with the DWI charge and conviction of a Travis County prosecutor. She was charged with and plead guilty to DWI, but only after a video of her in handcuffs and jail went viral on the internet. As the head of a public integrity unit, the governor threatened to veto funding for that particular unit unless she stepped down from office.
When the prosecutor did not cave into the governor’s threats, and stayed on the job, the governor actually vetoed that unit’s budget. Soon after that official act, the governor was indicted on two felony charges, and a special prosecutor was assigned the duty of prosecuting the case. The case, however, did not get very far. The governor’s attorneys moved the court to dismiss the charges from the get go and it went directly through to courts until it reached the highest criminal court in the state.
Court of Criminal Appeals
Only one of the charges facing the governor made it to the Court of Criminal Appeals, as the other charge was dismissed in a lower court. On appeal, the High Court ruled that to punish the governor criminally for vetoing a bill, would not only violate his First Amendment right to free speech, but also set a chilling precedent for future governors. This ruling took punish public officials in that way out of the hands of prosecutors, and in the hands of voters.
Supreme Court Makes Historic Ruling
In another public corruption case, but across the country, the Supreme Court was tasked with determining what amounts to public corruption versus typical political activity. In that case, McDonnell v. United States, a former Virginia governor was accused of using his position as governor to influence public policy while taking private benefits from a nutritional supplement company.
At trial the governor was convicted of taking official actions in exchange for financial benefits, the very definition of public corruption. But on appeal the Supreme Court was skeptical of the findings made at trial. The problem with the case was how the prosecution defined official action, when in fact there was no record of the governor taking action that could reasonably be defined as official. Instead, the Supreme Court found that what took place was typical of how governments, politicians, and officials act in general.
There are several lessons to take from both of these cases for anyone that is facing criminal charges. One of those lessons is that often times prosecutors overcharge, and are reluctant to reduce the charges unless given good reason to do so. That is where Jeff King’s experience as a Dallas criminal defense lawyer comes into play. He has fulfilled the role of prosecutor and defender, and can help prosecutors see and understand why their case is weak, and if they do not see reason, take the case to trial where he can argue your facts to a jury. Contact us today at (469) 399-7001.