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Rockwall County DA Indicted A Travis County grand jury indicted Rockwall County District Attorney Galen Ray Sumrow on April 10 for three counts of abuse of official capacity � two third-degree felonies and one state jail felony � alleging that he deposited thousands of dollars of state money meant for his office into a personal account. The indictment alleges that between 2003 and 2004, Sumrow submitted a direct deposit form to the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts to have District Attorney Apportionment Funds deposited into his own account. Gregg Cox, head of the Travis County District Attorney’s Office Public Integrity Unit, says the apportionment funds are distributed by the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts to DAs’ offices to help defray the costs of salaries and expenses. But according to Texas Government Code �46.004, those funds cannot be used to bolster the salary of the elected district attorney, Cox says. If convicted on either of the two third-degree felony counts, Sumrow faces between two years and 10 years in the state penitentiary. A third count against Sumrow is a state-jail felony that carries a maximum two-year state jail sentence. Sumrow did not return a telephone call seeking comment before presstime. But Randall “Buck” Wood, a partner in Austin’s Ray, Wood, Fine & Bonilla who represents Sumrow, says his client has done nothing wrong. According to a sworn complaint filed with the Travis County State District Court on Feb. 26 by Chris Clark, a Texas Ranger who investigated Sumrow, three checks totaling $68,140 went into Sumrow’s personal account between 2003 and 2004, money Sumrow allegedly used to pay his routine living expenses including “child support, credit card payments, utilities and numerous Automated Teller Machine withdrawals.” According to Clark’s complaint, the first apportionment check deposited into Sumrow’s account was for $34,350. The second and third apportionment checks were for $22,420 and $11,370 respectively. Cox maintains that Sumrow used the first amount for personal and living expenses, and the second two were used for personal and living expenses and to repay the first amount. “The indictment doesn’t charge him with theft; it’s charging him with misusing the money. It’s charging him with using the money contrary to a manner allowed by law,” Cox says. According to Clark’s complaint, Clark interviewed Sumrow about the apportionment funds meant for Sumrow’s office. Sumrow stated “at no time did he [Sumrow] ever do anything that would have caused the direct deposit of apportionment funds into his personal account.” When presented with a copy of the direct deposit authorization form, Sumrow admitted the signature on the form was his, stating “that’s absolutely me,” according to Clark’s complaint. But Sumrow added that he did not know the form was for the apportionment funds and said he did not realize the money was in his account until five or six months after it was deposited, according to Clark’s complaint. Wood says there is nothing illegal about a district attorney depositing apportionment money into his personal account. He also says the Texas Comptroller’s Office sent Sumrow the direct deposit slip unsolicited. “It’s just one of those things, it comes in the mail, and it’s direct deposit authorization. He didn’t solicit it. He just took it and signed it,” Wood says. Sumrow, who has been the Rockwall County DA for 20 years, believed the direct deposit form related to his salary, Wood says, adding that Sumrow was not initially aware that he was spending the state’s money. “What happened was he put money in, and he’d write checks, and at certain times there would not be enough of his money in his account, and it would dip down into the state’s money,” Wood says. But to prove Sumrow’s guilt, prosecutors will have to show Sumrow had a specific intent to use the money for his own benefit and he didn’t, says Wood. When he learned the money was in his account, he repaid the state, Wood says. Amendment Dies An amendment that would have required judges to report more quickly the campaign contributions they receive during the 120 days after a general election died before the Texas House could consider it on April 11. Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland, ruled an amendment that state Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, tried to attach to H.B. 27, which deals with the electronic filing of campaign finance reports, was not germane to the bill. Under Gallego’s amendment, judges would have had to report contributions they accept after an election within 15 days after the end of the 120-day period for accepting such contributions. The proposal by Gallego, of counsel at Davis & Wilkinson in Austin, came less than a month after Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan Hecht revealed that he had received more than $340,000 in contributions to pay his legal fees incurred in successfully challenging the State Commission on Judicial Conduct’s public admonition of him. Hecht has said he will disclose the names of the contributors in his July 15 campaign finance report, as required under the Texas Election Code. The commission admonished Hecht in May 2006 for speaking in support of Harriet Miers’ nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2005. A Special Court of Review, appointed by state Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson, overturned the commission’s admonishment in a 2-1 decision in October 2006. Gallego says the amendment was prospective and was not aimed at Hecht. “People have a right to know who’s giving money to their elected officials,” Gallego says. Hecht did not return a telephone call seeking comment before presstime on April 12. State Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler, moved to table Gallego’s amendment, but the House defeated Berman’s motion on an 84-61 vote. Berman then raised a point of order that the amendment was not germane. Berman says the amendment dealt with the judiciary, while his bill affects members of the Legislature.

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