Don't Dump Your Debt on Me

A miffed Lanier makes common cause with the controller

Keller had gone to a baseball game Tuesday night with a group of longtime male friends, none of whom are public officials. Then they dined at downtown's Liberty Noodles. Some of the party topped off the evening with a visit to the strip club.

KPRC-TV Channel 2 aired an interview with a female employee of Centerfolds who described Keller as so obnoxious and sloshed that club management quit serving him drinks. When you can't get a drink at a topless bar, you are seriously splattered!

After the accident, Keller sobered up out of the public eye with relatives. He concluded that he might beat the DWI rap, although the only way to salvage his political career was to bite the beer can and plead guilty.

Councilman Bert Keller: From Centerfolds to the front page.
Kent Manor
Councilman Bert Keller: From Centerfolds to the front page.

Accompanied by attorney Rusty Hardin, Keller took the bark out of the gathered pack of media hounds by immediately fessin' up and announcing he would plead out.

Surrender is not the usual tactic of choice for Hardin, who has successfully represented a string of local celebrities accused of drunk driving, including Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich. In fact, Hardin advised Keller he could probably beat the charge.

"There's a very good chance we could," says the attorney. "What you had was two or three laypeople at the scene who say he was intoxicated, but you don't have anything elseŠ.He could have gone down there with a trumped-up story, and the D.A. would have been very reluctant to file charges."

Keller's status as an elected official put him in a different position, according to Hardin. "A public person has got to decide whether he wants to be perceived as someone using every defense and every tool they can to avoid being held responsible for what they did," Hardin says. "The answer for the average citizen is pretty simple: 'I don't want to be convicted.' For a public official, there's a certain price to [taking] advantage of all of the defenses the law provides."

Hardin escorted his client to the D.A.'s office and chuckled as he told the prosecutors, "You're being hand-sealed and delivered the easiest DWI you'll ever have."

The case has been assigned to eccentric county court Judge Janice Law, prompting one lawyer to snort, "Even she couldn't fuck up a DWI plea." Wait and see.

There may be one beneficial effect for municipal government; perhaps the incident will chill out the nocturnal escapades of what a Council colleague months ago tagged as the Brat Pack. Membership includes those wild and crazy conservative new boys on Council, Keller, District F's Mark Ellis and District C's Mark Goldberg, with the occasional social input from veteran Rob Todd.

"They're spending way too much time out drinking and running around together and feeling like they're really hot shit," comments one City Council observer.

Like Keller, Todd recently moved out from spouse Penny. Single guy Goldberg has been kicking up his heels with Parks and Recreation Assistant Director Susan Christian of late. The pair showed up in matching togas at the recent Zoo Ball. The Pack's watering hole of choice: Downing Street Ltd., a cigar bar on Kirby.

Or at least it was until last Wednesday.

Keep the Insider occupied and home at night. Call in your hot tips to (713)280-2483, fax them to (713)280-2496, or e-mail to insider@houstonpress.com.

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