Perry charged with abuse of power

 

 

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) was indicted on felony charges Friday by a grand jury in Austin for allegedly abusing his veto power to force the resignation of a Democratic prosecutor.

The grand jury indicted the 2016 presidential hopeful on two felony counts – coercion of public official and abuse of official capacity, according to The Associated Press. [READ FULL INDICTMENT AGAINST RICK PERRY]

Perry, 64, must turn himself in to the Travis County Jail, where he will be booked, fingerprinted and have his mug shot taken, according to KVUE-TV.

The charges stem from an ethics complaint filed last year by Texans for Public Justice, a left-leaning government watchdog group, claimed that Perry abused his official powers by threatening to veto money for public corruption prosecutors in the state in order to pressure a local district attorney to resign.

The public integrity unit is housed in the Travis County district attorney's office. Perry called for the resignation of District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg after she was arrested and pled guilty in April 2013 to drunken driving. 

Lehmberg, a Democrat, did not resign. Perry eventually made his veto threat a reality. The special prosecutor on the case worked to show evidence that Perry's threat to veto $7.5 million over two years was unlawful.

"The grand jury has spoken that there is probable cause to believe that he [Perry] committed at least two felony crimes," special prosecutor Michael McCrum told reporters, according to Reuters

The counts are first and third-degree felonies, with charges ranging from five to 99 years and two to 10 years, respectively.

The indictment says Perry, "with intent to harm another, to-wit, Rosemary Lehmberg and the Public Integrity Unity of the Travis County District Attorney's Office, intentionally or knowingly misused government property."

Perry used "coercion" by "threatening to veto legislation that had been approved and authorized by the Legislature of the State of Texas" to fund the Public Integrity Unit unless Lehmberg resigned, according to the indictment.

"The veto in question was made in accordance with the veto authority afforded to every governor under the Texas Constitution," Mary Anne Wiley, general counsel to the governor's office, said in a statement. 

"We will continue to aggressively defend the governor's lawful and constitutional action, and believe we will ultimately prevail."

It was in another Travis County judicial court that a grand jury in 2005 indicted former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay on charges of illegal money laundering to candidates in Texas. His conviction was later overturned. 

"It is beyond ridiculous that Travis County is pursuing the governor, after letting the seriously drunk, police-disrespecting DA stay in office," Ray Sullivan, Perry's former chief of staff as governor and a spokesman during his 2012 campaign, told the Austin American-Statesman.

"For the sake of Texas, Governor Perry should resign following his indictment on two criminal felony counts involving abuse of office," Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) tweeted.

"I am outraged and appalled that the Grand Jury has taken this action, given the governor's constitutional right and duty to veto funding as he deems appropriate," David Botsford, another member of Perry's council, said in a statement. 

"This clearly represents political abuse of the court system and there is no legal basis in this decision. The facts of this case conclude that the governor's veto was lawful, appropriate and well within the authority of the office of the governor."

Botsford said the indictment was "nothing more than an effort to weaken the constitutional authority granted to the office of Texas governor."

This story was updated at 9:58 p.m.