Tarrant D.A.'s wife testifies in hearing involving election fraud

Posted Thursday, Mar. 28, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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FORT WORTH – A Fort Worth lawyer’s effort to ensnare Tarrant County District Attorney Joe Shannon in an election fraud case kicked off Wednesday with a hearing that featured testimony from Shannon’s wife.

Attorney Mario X. Perez has been indicted on six counts of fraudulent tampering with a government record. He is accused of making false entries on campaign finance reports filed by an Arlington school board candidate in 2009.

But Perez argues that the district attorney’s office cannot prosecute his case because it was the D.A.’s wife who reported the possible criminal conduct.

He has asked the district attorney's office to recuse itself and is asking state District Judge George Gallagher to appoint a new attorney to prosecute the charges.

Perez’s recusal motion notes that Shannon’s wife represented Perez’s wife in divorce proceedings.

On Wednesday, Shannon’s wife, Rebecca Lucas, testified that her client sought her advice on how to tell authorities that Perez might have violated election laws. Lucas said she believed it was her duty to report the suspicions.

Lucas said her client, Azzah Perez, told her, "Certain races in Tarrant County were being compromised."

Mario Perez accuses Shannon of colluding with Lucas in preparing the tampering case and says that Shannon had a financial interest in the outcome of Perez's divorce.

He also argues that the criminal case against him was built with confidential information provided to the district attorney's office by Lucas.

During her testimony Wednesday, Lucas said she wrote a six-page memo outlining her client's concerns and said she attended a meeting between Azzah Perez and an investigator from the district attorney's office. She said, however, that she was not in the room for most of the meeting.

Lucas testified that she told the investigator where to find computers owned by Mario and Azzah Perez. Mario Perez argues that the computers contained information ruled by a judge to be confidential, but prosecutors dispute that and said Lucas had a duty to report what might be criminal activity.

Lucas said it was insulting to suggest that because she is married to Shannon, she has special access to his office or that he would direct his office to prosecute cases for her that he would not prosecute for any other deserving party.

She and Shannon were not married during the Perez divorce proceedings. They married July 4 after a 17-year relationship, Lucas testified.

The Perez divorce became final in 2011.

Lucas said she might feel uncomfortable practicing in a case where Shannon was the prosecutor, but not "nearly as uncomfortable as it makes me feel that there are actual election processes being polluted."

The hearing continues today.

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