FEBRUARY 03, 2010
To avoid a scandalous public corruption trial that would have featured testimony from some of the most influential politicians in Texas (among them a member of Bill Clinton’s cabinet), a veteran state lawmaker has pleaded guilty to fraud in connection with a bribery scheme.
The operation involves the convicted mayor pro tem (Don Hill) and planning commissioner (D’Angelo Lee) of Dallas. Both crooked officials steered low-income housing deals to a developer in exchange for bribes. The same developer also bribed Democratic state Congresswoman Terri Hodge for her influence in getting lucrative tax credits for the low-income housing projects.
Hodge, who has represented Dallas in the Texas House for more than a decade, is a well-known criminal justice reform advocate who wields tremendous power in state politics. She was charged with eight bribery counts, five fraud counts and one conspiracy count in a 2007 indictment that also accuses more than a dozen other public officials and their associates with offenses related to the Dallas affordable housing bribery plot.
Hodge pleaded guilty this week to the lesser charges of fraud and making false statements on her tax returns. The agreement with federal prosecutors also says she must resign her legislative position and never seek future public office. The highly popular congresswoman now faces three years in jail, a $100,000 fine and restitution to the Internal Revenue Service for cheating it out of tax dollars.
The plea brought a collective sigh of relief at Dallas City Hall, which has been rocked by a tidal wave of public corruption in the last few years. Billed as one of the biggest political spectacles in Dallas history, the now-cancelled trial’s witness list included state heavyweights in local politics, the United States Congress and a presidential cabinet member (former San Antonio Mayor Henry Cisneros who went on to become Clinton’s Housing Secretary).
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