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2013-04-18 digital edition

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2013-04-18 / Front Page

Chief of Staff Suspended Following Indictment

Last Friday, Texas Representative Tim Kleinschmidt suspended John Higgins, his Chief of Staff, following Higgins’ indictment by the Travis County Grand Jury on Wednesday. The Grand Jury indicted Higgins on twelve counts that involved his receiving monthly reimbursements for alleged fraudulent travel expenses from September 2011 to July 2012 totaling $9,769.70. According to the Travis County District Attorney’s Office, eleven counts were for tampering with a governmental record and one count was for securing execution of a document by deception, both of which are state felony offenses that, if found guilty, can lead to time in jail.

“ I am saddened by the announcement charging John, but our justice system provides a presumption of innocence until proven otherwise,” Kleinschmidt said. “My office will continue to fully cooperate with authorities in the interest of determining all the facts and a swift, fair conclusion.”

Kleinschmidt said he was “supportive of John’s position of innocence concerning the charges” but decided to suspend him until the “outcome of this case becomes clear.”

The Leader reported in August 2012 that Higgins was under criminal investigation by the Travis County DA’s Office for alleged improprieties related to travel reimbursements he received from the state. At the time, the Leader reported that Travis County Assistant District Attorney Gregg Cox, who oversees felony prosecutions of public officials, was investigating a complaint against Higgins and that Kleinschmidt and Higgins both confirmed the report.

Higgins turned himself in to authorities last Friday and was released after posting bond. His attorney, Sam Bassett of Austin, asserts that Higgins acted without criminal intent and that he had nothing to hide.

“We look forward to a full and fair opportunity to evaluate the evidence in the case. Though mistakes may have been made in certain entries in the records, Mr. Higgins maintains there was no intent to mislead anyone,” Bassett said. “Many of the documents were prepared by persons other than Mr. Higgins. It is my further understanding that many travel expense reimbursements he could have requested were not requested.”

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