86th LegislatureIssuesState HouseStatewide NewsSpeaker Dennis Bonnen Will Not Face Criminal Charges Over Empower Texans Controversy

After a Texas Rangers investigation and political fallout, the Brazoria County District Attorney announced no criminal charges would be brought against Speaker Bonnen.
October 24, 2019
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Today, the Brazoria County District Attorney, Jeri Yenne, issued a statement announcing she would not charge Speaker Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton) for any criminal acts possibly resulting from the quid pro quo he offered grassroots leader Michael Quinn Sullivan during their June 12 closed-door meeting.

“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.”

Though widely regarded as a political detriment, the question levied by many observers was whether Bonnen’s actions, verified in Sullivan’s recording, were in fact criminal.

“The allegations regarding the June 12, 2019 meeting are that Speaker Bonnen offered conservative activist Michael Quinn Sullivan media credentials for Mr. Sullivan’s organization in exchange for Mr. Sullivan’s organization politically targeting a list of certain specific Republican House Members in the upcoming 2020 election.”

Yenne’s statement also confirmed that Sullivan’s recording had been “scientifically authenticated,” and that Bonnen and Rep. Dustin Burrows (R-Lubbock), who was present during the meeting and was the one to ready Sullivan the list of ten members, had “verified their voices on the recording and the statements made by them.”

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This brings to a close the investigation started by the Texas House General Investigating Committee and conducted by the Texas Rangers Public Integrity Unit, though it is still within the power of the Texas House to enact punishment of their own.

Bonnen responded to the findings with a statement of his own, saying, “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.”

Yenne pulled no punches in her statement, and called Bonnen’s behavior “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.”

On Tuesday, Bonnen announced he would not be running for reelection to House District 25.

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McKenzie Taylor

McKenzie Taylor

McKenzie Taylor serves as Operations Manager and resident plate-spinner for The Texan. Previously, she worked as State Representative Kyle Biedermann’s Capitol Director during the 85th legislative session before moving to Fort Worth to manage Senator Konni Burton’s campaign. In her free time, you might find her enjoying dog memes, staring at mountains, or proctoring personality tests.