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Board of Disciplinary Appeals Upholds Disbarment of Charles Sebesta, Jr.

The Texas Board of Disciplinary Appeals has upheld the disbarment of Charles Sebesta, Jr., the former Burleson County District Attorney, due to prosecutorial misconduct in the prosecution of Anthony Graves. The Board issued its ruling today.

In June, the State Bar of Texas disbarred Sebesta. He appealed that ruling to the Board, and oral arguments were heard in the matter on January 29. BODA is a statewide independent adjudicatory body of 12 attorneys appointed by the Supreme Court of Texas to hear certain attorney discipline cases.

Attorneys representing Anthony Graves filed an Amicus Brief in the BODA matter.

“In rejecting Sebesta’s argument, the Board of Disciplinary Appeals found that Charles Sebesta’s misconduct was so egregious that they characterized him as having ‘unclean hands.’ That certainly is a fitting description,” said Neal Manne, Managing Partner of Susman Godfrey, LLP, and one of Mr. Graves’ pro bono counsel.

“I am glad it was so easy for the Board to rule against Mr. Sebesta’s appeal,” Mr. Graves said, “He was complaining about technicalities to defeat my grievance against him, but he sure had more due process on a non-criminal matter than he ever gave me on a life or death matter.”

Sebesta had appealed the disbarment on technical grounds relating to changes made in the attorney disciplinary process in 2004 and 2014. The Board rejected both issues that Sebesta had raised. His appeal had not disputed the prosecutorial misconduct he had engaged in.

Mr. Graves was convicted of multiple murders in 1994 in a trial that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit eventually determined was tainted by prosecutorial misconduct, deliberate hiding of evidence, suborning of false testimony from key witnesses, and other wrongdoing by the prosecutor, Mr. Sebesta. These violations of Mr. Graves’ fundamental constitutional rights resulted in him spending 18 and one-half years incarcerated, including 12 and one-half years on Death Row, during which he faced two execution dates.

Mr. Graves’ complete innocence was ultimately recognized by a special prosecutor who re-examined the case in 2010. His innocence was officially confirmed by the State of Texas itself, which deemed Mr. Graves to be “actually innocent” and paid compensation for his wrongful imprisonment.

Charles Eskridge, a partner at Quinn Emanuel, and Kathryn Kase, Executive Director of Texas Defender Service, also represented Mr. Graves in connection with the disbarment action.

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The BODA Opinion in Sebesta v. Commission for Lawyer Discipline of the State Bar of Texas, is available in Adobe .pdf format.

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