Payback for covering up Bush's DUI?

By Mark Follman

Published January 25, 2005 8:52PM (EST)

Yesterday we alerted you to a short piece in Newsweek regarding Alberto Gonzales' role in helping George W. Bush dodge jury duty in a Texas drunken-driving case back in 1996. By not serving, Bush was able to keep secret his own record of a DUI conviction. The Newsweek report keys off of Alberto Gonzales' nomination by Bush for U.S. attorney general -- he's expected to be confirmed this week -- but back in 2000, Salon first broke the story regarding the coverup of Bush's DUI.

Gonzales, who served as then Gov. Bush's general counsel, asked the court to excuse Bush from the case because of the possibility that Bush might eventually be called on to pardon the accused. As reporter Robert Bryce wrote in 2000, Travis County attorney Ken Oden called Gonzales' request an "unusual" argument. "In 20 years of prosecuting in a town full of government officials," he said, "I'd never heard that position before."

Bush was excused from the case as a "courtesy" to the governor, but the defense attorney in the case, P. David Wahlberg, agreed with Oden, telling Salon that Gonzales' argument about a possible conflict over a pardon was "laughable."

Less amusing now is the payback that Gonzales, with his disturbing record on torture, has coming from Bush. During his Senate confirmation hearings, Gonzales denied dealing to get Bush out of jury duty in 1996, and the White House (see the Newsweek piece) continues to back him up. Just something to chew on as the Senate mints Gonzales as the next U.S. attorney general in the days to come.

Update: The group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a complaint today with the Office of Disciplinary Counsel of the State Bar of Texas regarding Gonzales' testimony on this issue. (Hat tip to John Byrne of Raw Story, who reports that Gonzales continues to stonewall Senate Dems on a variety of subjects.)

"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."

"The marked contrast between the version of events Mr. Gonzales provided to the Senate Judiciary Committee and the version told by the three other individuals involved -- the prosecutor, the defense lawyer and the judge -- is enough to require the State Bar of Texas to investigate this matter," said CREW executive director Melanie Sloan. "Violations of the bar rules can lead to disbarment. The Senate should delay voting on Mr. Gonzales's nomination until this matter is cleared up or face the prospect of having an Attorney General who has lost his bar license."

Mark Follman

Mark Follman is Salon's deputy news editor. Read his other articles here.

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