Dewhurst was wrong to make call to police

Posted Friday, Aug. 23, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst can’t be faulted for wanting to help a relative get out of jail. But he well deserves criticism for the way he went about it.

As first reported by KXAS/Channel 5, Dewhurst’s step-niece by marriage, Ellen Bevers, was arrested by Allen police Aug. 3 after being suspected of shoplifting. Police said she left a grocery store without scanning and paying for a bag of items at a self-checkout stand, although she had paid for some things.

Dewhurst called the Allen police that night to inquire how he could get his niece released. Repeatedly identifying himself as lieutenant governor, he insisted on talking to “the senior officer who is there at your department. Right now.”

Transferred to a sergeant, Dewhurst said Bevers had been “arrested on a mistaken charge,” and he wanted to know how to get her out of jail that evening. He offered to have the Texas Department of Public Safety director call to verify his identity.

After the Allen official said the niece would have to be transferred to the Collin County Jail for arraignment, Dewhurst said it was “ridiculous,” and requested the phone numbers of the county judge and sheriff, The Associated Press reported. He later asked for the cellphone number of the sergeant’s supervisor.

Dewhurst’s political opponents pounced immediately, with one Republican primary challenger calling the action a “blatant abuse of power,” and a Democratic Party leader saying it was “intimidation.”

The abuse and intimidation charges against the lieutenant governor should be left in the political arena, and Bevers’ guilt or innocence is in the hands of the justice system, where it belongs.

The public, however, has the right to question the appropriateness and wisdom of Dewhurst’s action. For one who has been lieutenant governor for 10 years — presumably an astute politician — he should have known that it would be unwise for him to get involved in the matter directly. He opened himself up to criticism and ridicule.

Surely he knows attorneys in the Dallas area who could have handled the case, including arranging bail for his relative. Had he gone that route, no one else would have known or cared about it, and he wouldn’t be mired in controversy.

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