Tuesday, March 31, 2015
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Texas’ Perry charged with coercion for veto threat

By
From page A6 | August 16, 2014 |

AUSTIN, Texas — A grand jury indicted Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Friday for allegedly abusing the powers of his office by carrying out a threat to veto funding for state prosecutors investigating public corruption – making the possible 2016 presidential hopeful his state’s first indicted governor in nearly a century.

A special prosecutor spent months calling witnesses and presenting evidence that Perry broke the law when he promised publicly to nix $7.5 million over two years for the public integrity unit, which is run by Travis County Democratic District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg’s office. It’s the same office that indicted U.S. Rep. Tom Delay as part of a finance probe.

Several top aides to the Republican governor appeared before grand jurors in Austin, including his deputy chief of staff, legislative director and general counsel. Perry himself did not testify, though.

Grand jurors indicted Perry on abuse of official capacity, a first-degree felony with potential punishments of five to 99 years in prison, and coercion of a public servant, a third-degree felony that carries a punishment of two to 10 years.

A spokesman for the governor didn’t immediately return messages seeking comment.

No one disputes that Perry is allowed to veto measures approved by the Legislature, including part or all of the state budget. But the left-leaning Texans for Public Justice government watchdog group filed an ethics complaint accusing the governor of coercion because he threatened to use his veto before actually doing so in an attempt to pressure Lehmberg to quit.

“I took into account the fact that we’re talking about a governor of a state – and a governor of the state of Texas, which we all love,” said Michael McCrum, the San Antonio-based special prosecutor. “Obviously that carries a lot of importance. But when it gets down to it, the law is the law.”

In office since 2000 and already the longest-serving governor in Texas history, Perry isn’t seeking re-election in November. But the criminal investigation could mar his political prospects as he mulls another run at the White House, after his 2012 presidential bid flamed out.

McCrum said he’ll meet with Perry’s attorney Monday to discuss when he will come to the courthouse to be arraigned. McCrum said he doesn’t know when Perry will be booked.

Asked why McCrum never spoke to Perry personally, McCrum said, “That’s prosecutorial discretion that I had.”

Lehmberg oversees the office’s public integrity unit, which investigates statewide allegations of corruption and political wrongdoing. Perry said he wouldn’t allow Texas to fund the unit while Lehmberg remained in charge.

Perry said Lehmberg, who is based in Austin, should resign after she was arrested and pleaded guilty to drunken driving in April 2013. A video recording made at the jail showed Lehmberg shouting at staffers to call the sheriff, kicking the door of her cell and sticking her tongue out.

Lehmberg faced pressure from other high-profile Republicans in addition to Perry to give up her post. Her blood-alcohol level was nearly three times the legal limit for driving.

Lehmberg served about half of her 45-day jail sentence but stayed in office, despite Perry’s assertions that her behavior was inappropriate.

The jail video led to an investigation of Lehmberg by a separate grand jury, which decided she should not be removed for official misconduct.

The indictment is the first of its kind since 1917, when James “Pa” Ferguson was indicted on charges stemming from his veto of state funding to the University of Texas in an effort to unseat faculty and staff members he objected to. Ferguson was eventually impeached, then resigned before being convicted, allowing his wife, Miriam “Ma” Ferguson, to take over the governorship.

 

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 14 comments

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  • PornacAugust 16, 2014 - 5:44 am

    No big deal. Just another Obama liberal political stunt.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • JimboAugust 16, 2014 - 12:36 pm

    Yup thats it. Obama took control of Rick Perry through super secret communist/socialist kenyan super powers and controlled his actions in Texas all the way from D.C.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • CD BrooksAugust 16, 2014 - 6:42 am

    Perry being Perry, tried to tell you dude is whacked. With any luck this will dash his presidential aspirations.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Larry WAugust 16, 2014 - 11:08 am

    Love it when a drunk does ethical investigations of others. Maybe the left can find someone with slightly cleaner hands to do their dirty work.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • CD BrooksAugust 16, 2014 - 1:22 pm

    Larry W, turnabout is fair play. The Texas Governor getting what he deserves. Good riddance Rick! ;)

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Larry WAugust 16, 2014 - 1:31 pm

    Cd. The difference is that he didn't want to have the state pay for a political hack. Do you ever that she would investigate a fellow democrat? I think not!

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • CD BrooksAugust 16, 2014 - 1:36 pm

    Larry W, Perry is bad news. Good thing he's been exposed.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Larry WAugust 16, 2014 - 2:29 pm

    CD. I don't know Perry but I wish that the person going after him was doing it with cleaner hands. How would you feel if there was a drunk DA who was only investigating Dodger fans. I, as a Giant fan, would not have an issue with this but you might. People who use their legal position to attack people from a different party do dishonor to their office and they should be removed. I would feel the same way if there was a drunk Republican filing bogus charges against a Democrat.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • CD BrooksAugust 16, 2014 - 4:30 pm

    Larry W, my point is that the man needed to be shown what he is. Much like McConnell and others in that pack of GOP morons, they're no good dirty rotten politicians. I don't care who gets after them. Please include the Dodgers out of this discussion, they're the good guys! :)

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Larry WAugust 16, 2014 - 4:46 pm

    CD, the reason that I involved the beloved, but rich, Dodger blue is that this should not be viewed like a sports team. Too many on the left View conservatives as either evil or stupid my team vs their team. This is equally stupid. A person who is going after ethical violations should be above the fray and she is clearly not. So, she should be out and someone who will clean corruption from both sides step in. Go orange and black.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • FDCAugust 16, 2014 - 7:23 pm

    CD, what you are saying is that it is OK with you for a convicted/sentenced drunk driver to seek vengeance on someone who sought to remove her from office because of her gross misconduct. I thought you didn't think too highly of drunk drivers but since she is one of your beloved lefties, I guess you think it is just fine. Your stance reeks of hypocrisy. I still like you, though.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • CD BrooksAugust 16, 2014 - 7:56 pm

    FDC and Larry W. I guess you guys are right I do hate drunk driving. But I missed the point and was just getting after Perry because he's such a loser. Fair enough I bow to your correct observations. Uncle!

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • FDCAugust 16, 2014 - 7:59 pm

    Thank you, CD. Have a nice weekend.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • rlw895August 16, 2014 - 9:18 pm

    CD: No reason you should have carry water for two Texas grand juries. It sounds like they gave due consideration to all the arguments made here, and then some, before rendering their decisions.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
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