Travis County DA takes stand in her civil trial

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Associated Press

Posted on December 11, 2013 at 6:32 AM

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A Central Texas district attorney who oversees the state Public Integrity Unit testified Tuesday that her behavior toward sheriff's deputies and corrections officers during her April arrest for drunken driving was "totally inappropriate."

Travis County DA Rosemary Lehmberg testified on the second day of a civil trial that will culminate with a visiting judge determining whether she is fit to remain in office.

A contrite Lehmberg repeatedly admitted on the stand Tuesday that her behavior on the night of April 12 was unacceptable, according to the Austin American-Statesman (http://bit.ly/1e3MBkn ). She testified that she was receiving treatment to teacher her coping skills and the value of a good support system.

Witnesses a day earlier had testified that the 64-year-old Lehmberg was shouting and threatening officers soon after being taken into custody.

She testified before Judge David Peeples that she drank vodka and sparkling water at home before leaving for a restaurant where she had two glasses of wine. After leaving, she stopped at one place to purchase a bottle of vodka and another for soda. She drank in her parked car while checking emails on her phone.

Lehmberg said she began driving home but had trouble controlling her car and decided to find a place to stop and call someone for a ride, the American-Statesman reported. A sheriff's deputy then pulled up and saw the vodka bottle in the front seat.

Lehmberg pleaded guilty within days of her arrest, was sentenced to 45 days in jail and took a leave of absence to check into rehab. She then returned to her job, which oversees a state unit that investigates wrongdoing by public officials statewide.

James Collins, the executive assistant Travis County attorney who is prosecuting the case for the state, has said Lehmberg is unfit for office and could harm the public interest if she remains in her position.

But Dan Richards, Lehmberg's attorney, said the district attorney is more than capable and has stayed in office out of a sense of responsibility to the public that overwhelmingly re-elected her to a second four-year term last year.

A petition seeking her removal was filed by Austin attorney Kerry O'Brien under a state law that allows the removal of elected officials for "incompetency," ''official misconduct" or "intoxication on or off duty caused by drinking an alcoholic beverage." Anyone living in a county for six months can file a petition there.

Testimony in the trial is scheduled to resume Wednesday.

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Information from: Austin American-Statesman, http://www.statesman.com

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