HOUSTON (AP) - A lawyers association is questioning whether a prominent Houston attorney received special treatment in his drunken driving case from the outgoing district attorney.
Tony Buzbee had his case dismissed Dec. 9 by Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson, who said the attorney had completed pretrial diversion - a form of probation typical for first-time DUI suspects.
The Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association said the case is unusual because Anderson personally signed the dismissal and Buzbee only had to complete eight months of probation, not the usual year, the Houston Chronicle reported (https://bit.ly/2ifQo5X ). Buzbee has also applied to have the case erased from his record, not observing the two-year waiting period usually mandated for such cases.
“It appears to have been an under-the-table deal with Devon Anderson,” association president Tyler Flood said. “I already have clients calling me saying they want the ‘Tony Buzbee deal.’”
Buzbee, who maintains he was not intoxicated when he was arrested in March, told the newspaper in an email he fulfilled the requirements and has “put this all behind me.”
“My lawyers suggested that rather than spend thousands on fighting the case, that I participate in a program where I would only have to not drive for a time, take an alcohol course, get evaluated for my proneness for re-offending and make a donation to MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving),” he said. “Frankly, because a new DA was coming in, and my desire for closure, I took the deal offered. I did all the things the DA required, and I did them quickly.”
Some of Buzbee’s high-profile clients have included singer Jimmy Buffett and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who was indicted on abuse of power and coercion charges.
In a statement, Anderson said the dismissal “was the right thing to do” because Buzbee “qualified for pretrial intervention and completed all of the requirements typically mandated for a first-offender DWI defendant.”
Buzbee’s attorneys also are fighting efforts to have a copy of the contract related to his pretrial diversion be made public. Such contracts generally are publicly available.
The lawyers association says the judge presiding over Buzbee’s case, County Court-at-Law Judge Bill Harmon, is the only jurist in Harris County who does not allow pretrial diversions for DWI cases. Harmon told the newspaper he signed the dismissal forms but will continue to refuse to participate in pretrial diversions for DWI cases.
“Our target is not Tony Buzbee … He hired good lawyers and got a good result,” Flood said. “Our problem is the appearance of impropriety between the district attorney and the judge.”
Information from: Houston Chronicle, https://www.houstonchronicle.com
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