Thursday, February 04, 2010

Terri Hodge pleads guilty: Prisoner advocate to leave Lege in disgrace

Texas state Rep. Terri Hodge yesterday pled guilty "to failing to pay taxes on $74,000 in income, including more than $32,000 in bribes." She'd been accused of other serious charges to which she did not plead guilty, including accepting bribes from a developer and "peddling her influence to get inmates released on parole in exchange for money." Here are the lowlights from the Dallas News:

State Rep. Terri Hodge provided a dramatic twist to the FBI's public corruption investigation Wednesday by agreeing to resign from the Texas House after pleading guilty to failing to pay taxes on $74,000 in income, including more than $32,000 in bribes.

Hodge, D-Dallas, also admitted that she never paid taxes on another $41,000, some of which was money she pilfered from her own campaign war chest for personal expenses. Neither prosecutors nor Hodge offered details.

The 69-year-old legislator choked up several times during an early-morning hearing that was never publicly scheduled, apparently in an attempt to spare Hodge media attention.

Hodge, who did not comment as she left the courthouse, agreed to drop her re-election bid for an eighth term. But she will remain a House member until she is sentenced.

"I'm not real keen on that notion," U.S. District Judge Barbara Lynn said at the prospect of a felon remaining in office for any length of time. She said she would schedule a sentencing hearing soon, but it could still take weeks.

Hodge pleaded guilty to accepting money from prominent developers Brian and Cheryl Potashnik in the form of rent and utility payments. The Potashniks, both of whom have since pleaded guilty to bribery, let her live in one of their affordable housing complexes for reduced rent and also bought her about $2,000 worth of carpet.

As part of her deal plea deal, finalized late Tuesday, Hodge did not admit the bribery conspiracy, which alleges that she wrote letters to the state advocating that the Potashniks' company, Southwest Housing, receive lucrative tax credits to build low-income housing in her Dallas district in return for the bribes. Such support from public officials was crucial for developers getting the tax credits.

Hodge's district supported her two years ago even after these charges came to light, but now she must drop out of her primary race and will not be back in Austin (and might be in federal prison) in 2011. Last session she sat on the House Corrections and Criminal Jurisprudence Committees, putting her in the center (at least geographically, if not usually rhetorically) of many debates covered on Grits.

At the Lege, Terri Hodge was always a reliable vote for criminal-justice reform bills and a well-intentioned, passionate advocate - especially concerning prison conditions and parole policy. But
she could be domineering and combative in a legislative environment that rewards comity and compromise. She wasn't someone who other legislators would typically follow, certainly not across party lines, and thus in the GOP-dominated era post-2002 she became marginalized at the Lege, even as some of her causes started to gain traction.

Though Hodge wasn't convicted of bribery, taking free rent from a developer whose projects she's pimping through the process is overtly corrupt. She disgraced herself and her office. Her loud protestations of innocence - by which she justified sticking around through the 81st legislative session even after she'd been indicted - turned out to be all lies. Terri Hodge leaves behind a legacy of ignominy and shame that casts a pall over the whole political process.

Adding fuel to any well-deserved populist outrage over Hodge's transgressions, the Texas Tribune is reporting that she will still be eligible to receive her state legislative pension of around $40K per year, which is more than a five-fold boost from her annual legislative salary. How's that for bitter irony?

Especially since she wasn't accomplishing much, anyway, it's surely best all around for District 100 to get a new rep, who by the way will be a fellow named Eric Johnson, her primary opponent. The south Dallas seat is a "safe" one for Democrats and there is no GOP candidate.

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

"peddling her influence to get inmates released on parole in exchange for money."

Is the peddling a criminal offense? If so, it seems any politician could be guilty of that. After all, most politicians, if not every one of them, do something in return for someone who has given them a campaign contribution, especially the large ones.

What's the difference other than it's not against the law?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

You know, 8:49, one regrettable outcome of this plea deal is that they apparently aren't going to get down to the nitty gritty on those questions. The devil is in the details and I can think of both damning scenarios and also ones that would exonerate her (on that particular charge). If there's an explicit quid pro quo agreement for campaign contributions in exchange for that kind of constituent service, that would be seriously problematic, IMO - particularly since she was also allegedly taking money from her campaign account for personal expenses. Whatever the case, now we'll probably never know.

doran said...

One conclusion to be drawn from this is that, from the point of view of the FBI and IRS, if a politician declares bribes as income and pays taxes on them, the pol is unlikely to be indicted.

As an example, if Gov Good Hair had failed to declare income from Merck, shortly after giving Merck total access to a large portion of the people of Texas for mandatory vaccinations, the Gov may have been indicted not only for the tax offense but for bribery. Maybe?

Anonymous said...

Another negative outcome of the plea; they probably will not pursue, charge, try and convict her on all the other illegal activities.

The sad news is she will be replaced by a lawyer, I believe.

At least I will no longer see her sitting on the House Corrections Committee. Thanks to the Feds for a late Christmas present!


Retired 2004

Anonymous said...

My first thought was "no wonder she was a prisoner advocate, she knew she'd be one some day"

But I don't think Hodge is necessarily a bad person. I think this kind of relatively small-time corruption has been part of the way Dallas has done business. And, for a long time, law enforcement authorities either looked the other way or the public official eventually beat the rap (Al Lipscomb - sentence reversed on appeal).

And even after the Feds have gone after Hodge and Don Hill and some others, Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price still threatens to derail projects in South Dallas if he and his friends aren't given large equity stakes in those projects. And nobody's going after him.

It seems like, in that atmosphere, it would be easy to convince yourself that taking a few hundred a month in "rent subsidies" from a developer wouldn't be that big of a deal. It's not like you're taking envelopes full of cash behind the church, etc.

doran said...

Speaking of doing business, bribes, corruption, etc., has anyone any knowledge of Wilco District Judges, or others, owning an equity interest in a treatment center to which convicted/probated felons are directed to attend?

ckikerintulia said...

I was sorry to hear of Terri's transgressions. I had talked to her a time or two during my forays in Austin in the wake of the Tulia deal. She sent me a picture. I'll keep it. Not making any excuses for her, but I'm going to keep on liking her.

Anonymous said...

One down, many many more to go..Next on the radar is John Wiley Price, Royce West, Eddie Bernice Johnson and anyone else who "supported" her after her indictment. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree..

Anonymous said...

Didn't this lady - criminal have some contacts with the higher TYC folks. That tell you anything? Does this effect the TYC sad situation?

Mark # 1 said...

Isn't it refreshing to see that the klan wannabees can at least read? If the hood fits, wear it proudly, anon 10:35. Unless of course, you have evidence, rather than innate, irrational hatred; but I think we all know the answer to that question, don't we, Mr. Troll?

sunray's wench said...

anon 9.54 ~ are you saying that all prisoner advocates are in some way connected to illegal activities?

I think it is a shame that Ms Hodge will now be remembered for the things she did wrong, instead of the good things she has helped to put in place.

Marie T said...

Recently Ray Sumrow, DA of Rockwall Cty, was paroled after serving 15 months of a 23 yr sentence for the same actions as Ms. Hodge. I note this to point out Ms. Hodge is not by herself, not to excuse her betrayal of her supporters. I hope the good she did in the leg. is not completely overlooked. Her pension is not an issue. She did serve in the leg. and did work on issues that deserved attention when it was unpopular to do so. That she chose to allow influence to be exchanged for personal benefits is disappointing. As Mr. Sumrow's action shows it is a common occurrence in the political arena and that is a sad commentary. If any of you have ever considered public office even at the lowly city council or zoning board, just complying with the open meetings regs. can be complicated. Be careful slinging mud, sometimes it splashes back on the person throwing it.

Anonymous said...

How can someone that betrays the public trust be a good person? She should be locked up. She is just as dirty as someone that brings a cellphone to an INMATE.

Anonymous said...

Mark # 1 ..John Wylie Price is and will continue to be investigated by the FBI, do some research. For you to refer to me as a wannabe klansman shows just how ignorant you really are. You are the internet troll who probably lives in austin and thinks they know everything about everything. GFY

Anonymous said...

"anon 9.54 ~ are you saying that all prisoner advocates are in some way connected to illegal activities?"

No. It's what's called a joke.

Plus, it wasn't even worded as to be an indictment of all prisoner advocates. I said that maybe SHE was a prisoner advocate because she knew she'd some day be a prisoner - a joke attempting to (jokingly) explain a single person's motivations.

Were you just looking for something to be offended about so much that you had to invent something?

Angee said...

Terri Hodge IS a good person. So much has been lost for so little. I don't know what made her cross the line but I doubt it is a situation where one can rethink and backtrack.
She screwed up but I knew her as a very humane person. That is what I will remember.

Anonymous said...

She isn't deceased just out of Public Office. The campaigne and election laws need changing. The catch - 22 is that the very people capable of changing them are afraid to do it because they need the money to get re-elected.

JTP

Boyness said...

Not at all surprising in Texas...NEXT!

sunray's wench said...

anon@2.24 ~ on the contrary, I was trying to understand your comment. I couldn't see you smiling, and as you are yet another "anon" I dont know your writing style, otherwise I may not have asked.

No need to be so defensive.

Mark # 1 said...

I just want to point out that Sumrow was sentenced to 4 years in the state court. If he has something else from the feds, I didn't see it.

Mark # 1 said...

Just like rabid dogs exist, so do racists. And--just like rabid dogs--it's useless to attempt to communicate with them. For entertainment sake, I will reference the "Austin" mention, as if living in Austin is supposed to be a bad thing. I wonder if our anon troglodyte is aware of where Governor Good Hair lives?

Anonymous said...

Now I don't have to sit at the house corrections committee and listen to her throw tantrums and insult those testifying. Good riddance.

Force10 said...

This outrage deserves more coverage from you and the other news media. The way that Terri Hodge and other politicians like Senator Whitmire use their influence to help offender’s family’s causes many of the problems that lead to things like the Escape of the alleged wheel chair offender in Houston. The constant interference in how a security agency is run mimics the problems being cause by Attorney General Holder and President Obama with the terror trials.

TDCJ EX said...

While way the hell off topic I have no idea what President Obama or the Attorney general Holder have to do with TDCJ , Terri Dodge or Senator Whitemire . None of them have any connection to a escape that required the direct involvement of corrupt bosses and rank . That is just plain bizarre ..I certainly hope you are not a example of the new generation of TDCJ bosses as you seem to infer

Back to reality and topic It is a never good when any official elected or not is caught up in corruption or any crimes. Regardless of what their political belifes are . It hurts every one not just those who hold the ideological beliefs of the corrupt politician

.If any one is complain that right wingers get more publicity , it has to do with their holier than thou rhetoric . If you are going to hold every one to near impossible “morals” better live them your self .

If anything it is frustrating as hell when our officials are caught in some form of corruption

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 9:32:

"The sad news is she will be replaced by a lawyer, I believe."

What an a$$hole comment. As if your own line of work, former or otherwise, isn't full of its own failures.

Anonymous said...

Are you the lawyer?

Retired 2004

JOREA said...

Hmmmm. Why is this conversation full of names of only black people. You white folks have been doing it since the beginning of time. I don't see one mention of a white politician. What she did was wrong she should be punished but all this talk about let's get Royce West, Obama, Eric Holder, etc is nothing but a white person is made that MY PEOPLE are rising up in the ranks. So don't get mad and try to talk about which educated black person you want to see get go down next. I don't hear no one speking about the mess that Bush Jr. got us in. He definitely stupid and dumb. He was a C average student in graduate school. Of course, you educated people that only a B average is acceptable grad school. To Anonymous (why didn't you put you name up?) who was naming all the black people that should be next to go.....sweetie don't get mad. Black people just called it PAYBACK.

Jorea said...

Hmmmm. Why is this conversation full of names of only black people? You white folks have been doing it since the beginning of time. I don't see one mention of a white politician. What she did was wrong and she should be punished but all this talk about let's get Royce West, Obama, Eric Holder, etc is nothing but a white person is made that MY PEOPLE are rising up in the ranks. So don't get mad and try to talk about which educated black person you want to see go down next. I don't hear no one speaking about the mess that Bush Jr. got us in. He's definitely stupid and dumb. He was a C average student in graduate school. Of course, you educated people should know that only a B average is acceptable in grad school. To Anonymous (why didn't you put you name up?) who was naming all the black people that should be next to go.....sweetie don't get mad. Black people just called it PAYBACK.

BTW..I'm a former federal inmate and a PROUD prisoner advocate.

Anonymous said...

I am glad she is gone. If you ever watched her antics in hearings she looked like she was trying out for some gong show. She certainly did not act in a professional manner. Can't say I will miss her.