Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen will not be charged criminally for the inappropriate comments he made to a right-wing activist last summer, Brazoria County District Attorney Jeri Yenne said Thursday morning.
“As repugnant as Speaker Bonnen’s actions and statements are, I do not believe there is sufficient evidence from the June 12, 2019, meeting to warrant a criminal prosecution of Speaker Bonnen for bribery or solicitation of a gift by a public servant, therefore no criminal charges will be brought,” she said.
Facing intense heat for disparaging he comments he made about fellow legislators as well as other elected officials, Bonnen announced this week that he will not run for re-election and consequently will give up his position as speaker in the next legislative session.
Texas Democrats on Thursday floated the idea that Bonnen may have stepped down in exchange for not being prosecuted.
“No one is above the law,” the party’s executive director, Manny Garcia, said in a statement. “Texans deserve to know if the corrupt Republican Speaker and the Republican Brazoria County District Attorney arranged a deal for him to step down instead of being dragged to court and jail.
“Texans know exactly what the Republican Speaker of the House said behind closed doors and now they deserve justice. So, where are the grand juries, subpoenas, and comprehensive reports?
“Dennis Bonnen’s political career is over. This is about the law and justice for Texans. Texans are pretty damn tired of Republican coverups, back-room deals, and charades.”
Yenne, the top prosecutor in Bonnen’s home county, had authority to pursue criminal charges if she saw fit and in August asked the Texas Rangers Public Integrity Unit to conduct a criminal investigation.
Her decision to not present the findings to a grand jury squares with remarks made by Bonnen’s Austin attorney, Brian Roark, who told the American-Statesman last week that the Speaker had not committed a crime because the press credentials he offered blogger Michael Quinn Sullivan for targeting 10 Republican House members did not have a monetary value.
Yenne ripped Bonnen for his statements, calling them “offensive, lacking in character and integrity, demeaning to other human beings including local government officials, cities and counties, and the members of the Texas House of Representatives who placed their confidence in Speaker Bonnen and are entitled to his respect.”
Bonnen’s spokeswoman, Cait Meisenheimer, said in a statement that despite the Speaker not being charged “the damage has been done.”
“It is unfortunate that a surreptitiously obtained 64-minute recording turned into a ten week investigation and ultimately ended with the defamation of a man's quarter-century in public service. Today's decision by the District Attorney deflates Michael Quinn Sullivan's entire reason for going public three months ago -- that, according to him, the Speaker solicited a bribe and broke the law. Unfortunately, we now live in a political climate where one is guilty until proven innocent, and not only has that thrown the ability of Republicans to hold onto our House majority into jeopardy, it sets a dangerous precedent moving forward. Speaker Bonnen fully cooperated throughout the investigation, and out of respect for the process, refrained from publicly weighing in on the matter until its final resolution. He appreciates the Rangers' thorough examination and the DA's confirmation of no wrongdoing. While justice prevailed today, unfortunately, the damage has been done.”
This is a developing story; check back for details.