Prosecutor: Allegations against judge candidate going to grand jury


Highlights

A special prosecutor is investigating allegations involving Chantal Eldridge and a 16-year-old boy.

The boy, who is now 27, lived with Eldridge as a foreign exchange student in 2006.

A special prosecutor investigating decade-old allegations of sexual misconduct involving a Travis County judicial candidate and a 16-year-old boy says he plans to take the case to a grand jury in late August and expects the alleged victim to testify.

The boy, who is now 27, lived with Chantal Eldridge as a foreign exchange student in 2006. He will come to Austin from his home in Brazil at the expense of Travis County, which traditionally pays for the travel of victims or witnesses in a case.

Rusty Hardin, a prominent Houston attorney who was appointed in March to investigate the allegations, declined to comment further.

The man’s attorney, Allison Wetzel, said Tuesday, “The special prosecutor has asked my client to appear before the grand jury, and he will be there.”

Eldridge’s attorney, Jackie Wood, did not immediately comment. Eldridge previously has denied any impropriety.

The allegations, which the American-Statesman reported in February, surfaced this spring during a contentious campaign in which Eldridge successfully sought to unseat incumbent David Crain in the Democratic primary for the 331st Criminal District Court.

She does not have an opponent in the November general election, clearing the path for her to take office in January.

In the final weeks of Eldridge’s campaign, the man alleging sexual misconduct came forward to say the two had sex when he was 16. Austin police officers investigated the allegation at the time. But prosecutors said they dropped the investigation partly because the accuser returned home and would not be coming back to the United States to testify.

Eldridge was never charged, and she and her lawyers have said the current investigation is politically motivated.

The man in March formally asked District Attorney Margaret Moore to reopen the case. But Moore recused herself, saying “it was not appropriate for this office to make any judgment about that request.”

State District Judge Brenda Kennedy, the county’s presiding criminal judge, appointed Hardin as a special prosecutor.

It is unclear whether an indictment would keep Eldridge from taking the bench, as her situation is believed to be without precedent in the Texas judiciary, according to Eric Vinson, executive director of the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, who called it a “unique situation.”

Vinson said the commission has yet to discuss whether it has jurisdiction to discipline a judge based on a pre-existing indictment or whether it would exercise any discretion it might have to discipline Eldridge.​

“Those are, at this point, both open questions, and I can’t comment on what’s going to happen,” he said.



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