Representative Dawnna Dukes arrived for her Friday morning court hearing a few hours late. Her smile, once inside the courtroom, was greeted with a brief lecture on promptness from Judge Brad Urrutia.
"Ms. Dukes, I just wanted to tell you we do start court at 9, OK,” said the Judge.
After apologies were made, she offered this explanation for running late. "Well first of all I found out last night that I needed to be here. My father had surgery. My sitter was supposed to arrive at 7am, and did not show and so I had to depend on driving my child to my dad and my mother. Just child care issues,” said Dukes.
The Austin state lawmaker is facing multiple public corruption charges.
Dukes allegedly received legislative pay for days she did not work resulting in 13 felonies for tampering with public records. There're also two misdemeanors for abuse of official capacity.
Those charges involve accusations of using campaign donations for personal gain.
"How do you plea, Guilty or Not Guilty?” asked Judge Urrutia.
“Your honor, I can unequally plea Not Guilty," replied Dukes.
Following the Arraignment, Dukes expressed frustration with how her case seems to be playing out prematurely in the media. "The court and the proceedings have not yet begun, and when they do my attorneys will tell the full story. The whole story and show unequivocally I’m not guilty of those charges. Can you give me the abridged version of the story? I’m not guilty,” said Dukes.
Shortly after an investigation was launched last year, there were calls for Representative Dukes to resign and at one point it looked like she would step down as a state lawmaker.
When the regular session got underway in January, the Austin Democrat apparently had a change of heart. Claiming she wanted to take part in the coming budget debates.
After the Friday morning hearing, she had this to say about the possibility about running for re-election.
"That is a very strong possibility,” said Dukes.
Dukes’ chances on a November ballot hinge on what happens in October, if there is a trail.
Prosecutors revealed a plea deal offer is on the table on Friday.