Public Officials Charged with Crimes – Texas Has a Long History

By Peek & Toland on October 7, 2016

When Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton was indicted on three felony charges related to alleged securities violations he became just the latest in a long line of public officials charged with criminal offenses.

In the spring, Paxton was charged in a federal court with misleading investors in a technology company, reported the Texas Tribune.

Charges against public officials are often complicated in nature. They can also be politically motivated and are often drawn out affairs.

The overturning of the corruption conviction of former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell by the U.S. Supreme Court this summer has also led federal prosecutors to look again at the way these cases have been handled, reported the Washington Post.

Texas has a long history of criminal prosecutions against public officials but while some were found guilty, many others were acquitted. The Dallas Morning News highlighted some of the famous cases.

Texas has a long history of public officials charged

Five Texas Public Officials Charged with Crimes

James Ferguson – Texas Governor

In 1917, Ferguson was indicted on nine charges after vetoing money to the University of Texas at Austin, following opposition to his candidacy from faculty members. Although he was convicted and removed from office he later ran to be president and his wife was elected to be the first female governor of Texas.

Bill Clayton – House Speaker

Clayton was indicted in 1980 and accused of taking money for votes during an FBI sting. He had failed to file reports saying he had received it but later said he was planning to return it, according to the Dallas Morning News. He was acquitted of the crime and secured another term as House speaker.

Gib Lewis, House Speaker

In 1990, Lewis was accused of illegally accepted a gift from a law firm. He pled no contest, paid a fine of $2,000 and promised not to seek reelection.

Dan Morales, Attorney General

Charges were brought against Morales in 2003. The attorney general was accused of mailing money in unearned legal fees to a friend. He admitted charges of lying on his tax return and mail fraud. Morales was imprisoned for four years, but he was released to a halfway house at the start of 2006.

Governor Rick Perry

In 2014, Texas governor Rick Perry, who unsuccessfully sought the GOP’s nomination for the presidential race last year, was accused and indicted of abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public servant. The Dallas Morning News reported that the second charge was ruled unconstitutional.

Perry was accused of threatened to veto funding for the Public Integrity Unit unless Rosemary Lehmberg, the Travis County District Attorney, resigned. Lehmberg had been convicted of drunk driving.

In February, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals tossed out the remaining charge against Perry who had been the first Texas governor to be indicted on a crime for a century.

Crimes of public corruption are complicated and not easy to substantiate as demonstrated by the varying fortunes of public officials charged with crimes. Whether you are a member of a local council or the state governor, you have to abide by a standard of rules that is different to members of the public. However, criminality can be a gray area in the public arena.

If you have been charged with an offense of corruption or any other white collar crime, it’s crucial that you receive experienced counsel from seasoned Texas criminal defense attorneys. Contact us here or call (512) 474-4445.

Posted in Criminal Defense

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Inaccurate Legal Advice over the Deportation Risks in Criminal Proceedings Can Be Challenged

By Peek & Toland on June 22, 2016

When non-U.S. citizens are convicted of crimes, they can face deportation or other immigration consequences if legal advice is suspect and their defense attorneys fail to alert them to the potential dire effects a guilty plea can have on their immigration status.

When this happens, their case can be reopened under a writ of Habeas Corpus. Our Austin criminal defense and immigration lawyers find ourselves dealing with a considerable number of these cases. If the defense attorney you hired failed to warn you of the probable immigration consequences of a conviction, your case could be reopened.

bad legal advice can result in your criminal case being reopened

It’s only applicable to non-citizens who were convicted after March 2010, the date when a landmark ruling was made.

The U.S. Supreme Court case of Padilla v. Kentucky, concerned the professional obligation lawyers have to alert their clients about the consequences for the immigration process that flow from pleading or being found guilty.

In the case that was decided on March 31 2010, Padilla, who was a lawful U.S. permanent resident more than four decades, faced deportation after pleading guilty to drug-distribution charges in Kentucky.

He later claimed that his attorney failed to advise him of the threat of deportation before he entered the plea. He said the lawyer told him he should not worry about deportation because he had lived in the United States for such a long time. Padilla said he would not have entered a guilty plea and would instead have gone to trial had he known about the deportation threat.

The Kentucky Supreme Court denied him post-conviction relief. The justices said the Sixth Amendment’s guarantee of the right to a lawyer does not protect defendants from incorrect advice about deportation because removal from the country is merely a “collateral” consequence of a criminal conviction.

The U.S. Supreme Court overturned the ruling of Kentucky’s highest court. The justices said deportation is a “drastic measure” rather than a collateral consequence, and because it’s now almost inevitable that a vast number of noncitizens will be deported if they commit a crime, accurate legal advice is more important than ever before.

Justice John Paul Stevens wrote the opinion for the 7-2 majority. He said lawyers must give accurate advice about the deportation consequences of criminal proceedings and this forms a part of the Sixth Amendment right to counsel, in particular when the immigration law is “succinct, clear and explicit.”

The court found Padilla’s lawyer should have informed his client that a guilty plea carried a deportation risk. The fact he did not rendered him constitutionally deficient.

The U.S. Supreme Court said legal representation must fall “below an objective standard of reasonableness,” and there must also be “a reasonable probability,” that the result of the proceeding would have been different but for the mistakes.

Habeas Corpus is a fundamental concept that underpins freedom in the western world. It goes back a long time before 2010. Its origins can be traced to Magna Carta signed by the English King John I in 1215, which provided that: “No man shall be arrested or imprisoned…except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land.

It’s a mechanism our attorneys use in cases when immigrants have not been properly warned of the possible consequences of deportation for their future. It’s used to challenge the legality of imprisonment. It has also been used very successfully by our Austin criminal defense attorneys to re-open cases after March 2010 when defense counsel failed to properly warn a noncitizen of his or her risk of deportation or future inadmissibility to become a U.S. citizen.

As Texas-based criminal and family immigration attorneys, we do a lot of work in helping to prevent deportations. We are ideally positioned to help noncitizens who continue to receive inaccurate legal advice in criminal proceedings which can drastically impact their immigration status.

Our team is standing by to help you in this complex legal area. To find out more about your rights and how the seasoned lawyers at Peek & Toland can help you and your case, contact us at (512) 474-4445.

Posted in Immigration, Uncategorized

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