Complaint filed against Gonzales for helping Bush bury DUI

Tracy Van Slyke

Senate Democrats recently postponed the confirmation hearing of Attorney General nominee Alberto Gonzales because of "his evasive answeres," on prisoner mistreatment. But it looks like more than just Gonzales' sanction of torture tactics could come back to haunt him. Based on a recent report by Michael Isikoff of Newsweek that reveals Gonzales shaded his role in getting President Bush, then Governor of Texas, off of jury duty for a DUI case, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) have filed a complaint with the Office of Disciplinary Counsel of the State Bar of Texas. (For all that don't remember, Bush's DUI was revealed at the tail end of this 2000 campaign. Because he was excused from jury duty, he wasn't forced to answer questions and possibily reveal his 1976 arrest for driving under the influence.) CREW is requesting an investigation into Gonzales' claim that his only role at court with the governor was to observe the defense counsel make a motion to strike the governor from the jury panel. But as Isikoff reports: In separate interviews, (Judge David) Crain—along with Wahlberg and prosecutor John Lastovica—told Newsweek that, before the case began, Gonzales asked to have an off-the-record conference in the judge's chambers. Gonzales then asked Crain to "consider" striking Bush from the jury, making the novel "conflict of interest" argument that the Texas governor might one day be asked to pardon the defendant (who worked at an Austin nightclub called Sugar's), the judge said. "He [Gonzales] raised the issue," Crain said. Crain said he found Gonzales's argument surprising, since it was "extremely unlikely" that a drunken-driving conviction would ever lead to a pardon petition to Bush. But "out of deference" to the governor, Crain said, the other lawyers went along. Wahlberg said he agreed to make the motion striking Bush because he didn't want the hard-line governor on his jury anyway. But there was little doubt among the participants as to what was going on. "In public, they were making a big show of how he was prepared to serve," said Crain. "In the back room, they were trying to get him off." CREW’s complaint alleges "that by misstating the facts surrounding the conversation in the judge’s chambers Gonzales may have violated 18 U.S.C. §1001, which makes it a federal crime to make false statements to a congressional committee. The complaint further alleges that Mr. Gonzales has violated two Texas Rules of Disciplinary Procedure: 8.04(a)(2) which prohibits lawyers from committing crimes that reflect adversely on their honesty or trustworthiness; and 8.04(a)(3) which prohibits lawyers from engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation." Updates on the complaint and the story will be posted.

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Tracy Van Slyke, a former publisher of In These Times, is the project director for The Media Consortium.
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