A Travis County grand jury has indicted Texas governor Rick Perry on two felony counts.
The Dallas News is reporting that Rick Perry was indicted late today by a Travis County grand jury that has been looking into charges the Texas governor and might-be presidential candidate, abused his power.
The charges stem from the governor's veto of a $7.5 million appropriation meant for the Travis County Public Integrity Unit. Governor Perry vetoed the money, which is legal, but he did it after threatening to withhold funding for the unit unless District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, a Democrat, resigned. If true, that threat is not. Perry is also charged with offering to find Ms. Lehberg a new position if she would step aside as district attorney, which, if proved, would also be against Texas law.
Perry has said publicly that he thinks the people of Texas have lost faith in Ms. Lehmberg after her arrest in April 2013 for drunk driving. The incident included a video of a belligerent Lehmberg being booked into the jail.
Perhaps the governor thought his threats against Ms. Lehmberg (right) would be seen as just another Texas he-man passing judgement on a woman fallen from grace, but the bad news for Governor Perry is, at the time he went after Ms. Lehmberg, the Public Integrity Unit was looking into one of Governor Perry’s pet projects. If Ms. Lehmberg had yielded to his pressure and resigned, Governor Perry would have been able to appoint her replacement. Instead, Ms. Lehmberg pleaded guilty, fulfilled her 45-day sentence, completed a treatment program, and refused to resign.
So Governor Perry vetoed the money.
Special Prosecutor Michael McCrum and a grand jury have been looking into the corruption charges against Governor Perry since April. McCrum is one of Texas's most distinguished lawyers, specializing in white collar crime defense for the last fourteen years. Before entering private practice, McCrum spent a decade as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Western District, specializing in prosecuting racketeering, drug, and money laundering cases. In 2010, he was on the short list to be President Obama's nominee for U.S. Attorney for the Western District, and impossible as it seems, he had the backing of the state's two Republican senators, John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchinson. According to the Dallas News, a half-dozen Perry staff members have appeared before the grand jury, including his budget expert, legislative liaison, deputy communications director and criminal justice adviser.
The Governor's office has renounce the indictment, releasing the following statement:
"The veto in question was made in accordance with the veto authority afforded to every governor under the Texas Constitution. We will continue to aggressively defend the governor's lawful and constitutional action, and believe we will ultimately prevail."
District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg's arrest and booking videos:
Governor Perry's photos via Facebook
District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg photo via Facebook