A grand jury indicted Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Friday for abusing the powers of his office, but the longest-serving governor in state history denies any wrongdoing.
Perry allegedly abused the powers of the governor’s office by carrying out a threat to veto funding for state prosecutors investigating public corruption.
He promised publicly to nix $7.5 million in funding over two years for the public integrity unit run by the office of Travis County D.A. Rosemary Lehmberg.
This threat took place after Lehmberg, a Democrat, was convicted of drunken driving last year, but refused Perry’s calls to resign from her position.
No one disputes that Perry is allowed to veto measures approved by the Legislature, as he did in following through on his promise to axe the funds.
By using public pressure to boast that he would do so as a means of trying to Lehmberg to quit, however, the grand jury felt he broke the law.
Perry, 64, and his legal team adamantly disagree.
Mary Anne Wiley, Perry’s general counsel, predicted he will be cleared of the charges against him, and thinks the exercise is largely a political stunt.
“The veto in question was made in accordance with the veto authority afforded to every governor under the Texas Constitution,” said Perry’s counsel.
David L. Botsford, Perry’s defense attorney, said he was outraged by what he called “political abuse of the court system” with “no legal basis.”
Lehmberg, and the grand jury that indicted Perry, are based in Austin, which is heavily Democratic, in contrast to most of the rest of conservative Texas.
Abuse of official capacity is a first-degree felony with potential punishments of 5-99 years in prison. Coercion of a public servant carries 2-10 years.
In office since 2000, Perry isn’t seeking re-election in November as he readies for what many believe will be second run for the White House in 2016.
When he ran for president in 2012, Perry plummeted from brief front-runner for the Republican nomination to national punchline after a series of gaffes.
None greater than his infamous “oops” moment:
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Rick Perry: Indicted For Abuse of Power, Coercion of Public Servant