Chari Kelly Named MADD's Prosecutor of the Year

September 17, 2018

AUSTIN, TX – Mothers Against Drunk Driving (“MADD”) has presented Chari Kelly, a felony prosecutor and candidate for a seat on the Third Court of Appeals, with its Prosecutor of the Year Award for 2018.  Travis County ranked among the state’s top five counties for alcohol-related fatalities in 2017.  

Kelly was recognized at MADD’s annual Travis County Law Enforcement Awards Luncheon, which was held on Sept. 14 at the Norris Conference Center’s Red Oak Ballroom in Austin. The event was part of the Take the Wheel Campaign, a joint initiative by MADD and TxDOT to end impaired driving.  MADD selects a prosecutor who has gone above and beyond in prosecuting DWI cases and ensuring that those who drink and drive face the appropriate consequences of their actions. 

“These are important cases for our office,” said District Attorney Margaret Moore, “and we are lucky to have outstanding prosecutors like Chari Kelly working to make sure drunk drivers are held accountable for the harms they inflict on our community.” 

Kelly, a former Captain and Judge Advocate General in the U.S. Army, was selected for her work in obtaining the 2017 conviction of Joseph Cantu for failing to stop and render aid after an early morning hit-and-run that killed a former University of Texas track athlete, Philip Wood.  Cantu and his wife were returning from the Driskill bar, having attended a gala earlier in the evening. 

Cantu was sentenced to 6 years probation, 200 hours of community service, installation of an ignition interlock, a court-ordered panel for DWI offenders, treatment and counseling, a letter of apology to the victim's family and no alcohol consumption during the probation term.  Cantu was also sentenced to serve two nights in jail each year during probation on two specific dates, the victim’s birthday and the date of the crash.

  “While I am honored to be recognized by MADD, I look forward to the day this award is no longer needed as there are no more drunk drivers to prosecute,” Kelly said. Both Texas and Travis County are leaders in alcohol-related fatalities, with 1,676 statewide deaths, according to the most recent statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  

Kelly is the Democratic nominee for Place 3 on the Third Court of Appeals, which sits in Austin.  The Third Court hears criminal and civil appeals from Travis and 23 surrounding counties.  Kelly, who is board certified in criminal law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and the National Board of Trial Advocacy, decided to run for the Court because of the lack of criminal experience she sees on that bench.

 “I’ve prosecuted some of our most violent offenders and defended those accused of committing crimes,” said Kelly.  “We owe it to the citizens of our community to have a greater depth of criminal law experience on the Third Court to make sure our Central Texas courts are providing justice to all.” 

Kelly was previously selected by Texas attorneys as the preferred candidate for her race with nearly 60% of the vote.  She was the only candidate for Third Court who beat an incumbent in the State Bar of Texas poll.  Kelly has received the endorsement of many nonpartisan groups, including minority bar associations and the National Women’s Political Caucus- Texas.  Additional information on Kelly’s background can be found at

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