Governor Rick Perry of Texas was indicted on Friday for improperly withholding funding from the State Integrity Unit. The withholding happened because Travis County District Attorney (D), Rosemary Lehmberg refused to resign after she pleaded guilty to drunk driving.
The indictment alleges that Governor Perry vetoed a 7.5 million dollar bill that was intended to fund the Travis County Integrity Unit. This unit oversees political corruption investigations. The funding was said to have been within in order to influence Lehmberg to resign.
The allegation in the indictment claims that Perry violated 2 laws, one of which prohibits state officials from knowingly conducting the misuse of Government property, services, personnel or anything of value that would belong to the state government.
Perry was also charged with coercion to influence or attempt to influence public officials. The law bans the exercise of any public official to violate the public servants known legal duty.
The complaint was filed in court by Texans for Public Justice, a liberal watchdog group. The complaint accused Perry of using the threat of veto to cut off the funds so as to influence Lehmberg into resigning. The judge who heard the complaint assigned Michael McCrum, an attorney from San Antonio, as a special prosecutor after Lehmberg recused herself from the complaint.
McCrum conducted the investigation, which contained grand jury testimony from over 40 witnesses but did not call Governor Perry to testify. McCrum finally managed to convince the grand jury to indict Perry.
Governor Perry’s defense attorney Michael L Botsford slammed the indictment stating, “This represents an abuse of power by the courts. The Governor’s use of his veto power was well within his authority.” He also claimed this was politically motivated.
McCrum fired back at claims calling them ridiculous and saying ”People know me as a man that looks at the facts.”
Perry in the past few weeks formed a political action committee and is considering running for President. He was scheduled to visit Iowa and New Hampshire in the coming weeks. The question people are asking is if this is a legitimate case against Governor Perry? After all, he did announce in advance that he would veto funding unless Ms. Lehmberg resigned. Does that constitute a crime?
However, the Governor does have wide ranging veto power. What if the legislative branch had the power to vote and actually override his veto? Would this indictment have gone through?
The Wall Street Journal today released an editorial that points out the facts that say there is a political motive behind the indictment and that appointing a special prosecutor is a common practice when wanting to go after a political figure in the state.
The WSJ also points out that Perry had a constitutional right to freedom of speech, to say he would be vetoing the bill in advance and that until the indictment gets tossed, his presidential aspirations are harmed because of this issue hanging over his head. It claims that this will affect his ability to raise money if he were to run for the Republican nomination.
Another item having over Perry’s head is that the indictment has been handed out, therefore he cannot counter suite in civil court. However, he can sue for violating his 1st amendment right.
Ms. Lehmberg was arrested for drunk driving and was belligerent toward the arresting officer, which was caught on tape. She did do jail time for this offense as well.
Texas has a history of going after politicians, most notably Congressman Tom Delay who was convicted and later overturned on appeals for allegedly scheming to influence Texas state elections. Another notable target was Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison who was acquitted of the charges against her.
Perry could face a maximum of 10 years in prison for just the charge of coercion alone but the chances are that this indictment will get thrown out; then the civil suites will begin to fly.