Jail video show DA kicking cell door
AUSTIN (KXAN) – On the day Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg was sentenced to 45 days in jail for driving while intoxicated, video released from the night she was arrested shows her kicking a a jail cell door and yelling at jail staff.
The security video taken from a camera mounted on the cell’s ceiling was made public Friday by the Travis County Attorney’s office. It also shows Lehmberg handcuffed from behind, slumped on a stool and crying. Other video taken with a hand-held camera shows her being restrained by jail staff.
Lehmberg’s sentence was handed down in a brief court appearance in which she formally entered the guilty plea she had promised. The 45-day jail sentence and suspension of her driver’s license was accompanied by a $4,000 fine. Based on her blood-alcohol content, she could have been sentenced to up to a year in jail.
But County Attorney David Escamilla said that given she has no previous record, the 45-day sentence was appropriate.
“This level of a jail sentence is at the higher end, if not the highest, of punishments assessed in Travis County for a first-time DWI where the offender has no previous criminal history and no collision was involved,” Escamilla said.
Lehmberg, 63, was arrested Friday night around 10:45. Travis County sheriff’s deputies pulled over the 63-year-old on FM 620 in West Austin. Witnesses said she was swerving on the road and driving on the shoulder. Lehmberg was released on bond Saturday morning.
Lehmberg took office in 2009 and was re-elected in November 2012. Her term runs through the end of 2016.
The court appearance came two days after an Austin lawyer formally filed a petition seeking to remove Lehmberg from office. In an updated to his petition, He alleged citing sources he did not name who were inside the jail that Lehmberg was behaving unruly.
“As a prosecutor with other 35 years of experience prosecuting drunk drivers, Lehmberg was well aware of the extreme danger of getting behind the wheel of a car intoxicated and driving it at night on a public road,” Kerry O’Brien said in his petition to the district courts of Travis County.
“Lehmberg violated the public trust, demeaned her office and created a substantial risk of injury to others.”
The DWI conviction and jail sentence does not require Lehmberg to step down from her $125,000-a-year-post, and she’s said she has no plans to do so.
The petition from O’Brien, an employment attorney who owns his own law firm, was filed with the courts on Tuesday and cites Lehmberg’s own letter to the courts saying that she planned to plead guilty.
O’Brien specifically asks the court to temporarily remove Lehmberg while a case is prepared to have her permanently stripped of her office.
In his updated petition, O’Brien said his sources told him Lehmberg was combative and had spit on others while in custody. Lehmberg’s lawyer denied such behavior.
Part of the jail video shows Lehmberg in a restraint chair with a mask on her face. She was taken still in the chair to have her blood drawn.
Her lawyer, David Sheppard, said the mask was to protect identity while in custody.
Escamilla said that Lehmberg’s conduct after her arrest was “deplorable.”
Under state law, the governor would have to appoint a replacement for a vacancy in the DA’s office.