The Travis County sheriff’s office has suspended its investigation into a hit-and-run that happened the night of Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg’s drunken driving arrest in April, and said Friday that no evidence ties her to the crime.
Lehmberg was charged with DWI on April 12 after deputies responded to a report that a Lexus sedan was driving erratically near RM 2222 and RM 620, near the scene of a hit-and-run also under investigation. In video and audio footage from that night, deputies can be heard questioning Lehmberg about the crash and discussing damage on a front corner of her car.
She pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated about a week after her arrest, but she can be heard discussing the crash with deputies in the video and audio footage and repeatedly denying that she was involved.
In recent days, the hit-and run has drawn attention from some suspicious that Lehmberg was involved, with the Austin attorney who has filed one of two lawsuits seeking her removal from office suggesting she was responsible for the crash, and a website posting clues that she is the perpetrator.
“There is no way her car could have jumped high enough to put the damage on the other car,” said Roger Wade, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office.
Senior Deputy Paul Cossette, who investigated the collision, listed the evidence in an email Friday that lead investigators to conclude that Lehmberg was not involved:
- Damage found on Lehmberg’s car doesn’t match the height of damage found on the car of Jeff Van Gorp, who reported to authorities that night that he was hit in the collision.
- There was no paint transfer on either vehicle that would suggest they came in contact with each other, Cossette said, and Lehmberg’s claim that she scraped the rock wall in front of her home seems to match the damage on her car.
- In a written statement and when he called 911, Van Gorp claimed he was struck by a newer SUV with bright headlights. Van Gorp in later statements said it could have been a Lexus RX 300, RX 330 or RX 350 with bright headlights with a blue tint or a Lexus ES 350. Lehmberg was driving a 2001 Lexus ES 300 four-door sedan with white “old style” headlights unlike those described by Van Gorp.
Rick Reed, the attorney behind one of the efforts to oust Lehmberg from office, initially claimed in court filings that Van Gorp called 911 after the collision to report that “his vehicle was struck by an oncoming silver-colored Lexus” with a license plate that matched Lehmberg’s.
However, in the 911 call the Travis County sheriff’s office released Wednesday, Van Gorp is recorded saying that an oncoming vehicle that looked like a newer, mid-size SUV clipped the side of his car, popped his tire and damaged the fender before driving away. He doesn’t mention a license plate.
Reed Friday questioned several points of the investigation. “If the Sheriff’s Office expects the citizens of Travis County to give any credence to Deputy Cossette’s findings and conclusions it should release all records relating to his investigation immediately, if it has not already done so.”
Note: This story has been updated to include a statement by Rick Reed, the attorney behind one of the efforts to oust Lehmberg from office.