Friday was not a good day for Texas Governor Rick Perry. The Republican politician's been indicted on two felony counts of abuse of office and threat of vet, as well as withholding money in order to intimidate an elected district attorney's resignation.
The Austin American Statesman outlines the court case. A Travis County grand jury indicted the governor after watchdog group Texans For Public Justice filed a complaint against the governor's threat of withholding funding.
Craig McDonald,the official filer, believed the politician performed "one or more offenses … against the peace and dignity of the state." When interviewed, McDonald felt the "complaint had merit from the beginning" and "the legal process is working just as it should."
So what did Perry actually do?
Well, if the indictment is correct: "abuse of official capacity, a first-degree felony, and coercion of a public servant, a third-degree felony." Allegedly, he threatened to withhold $7.5 million earmarked for District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg's department, which houses the state's Public Integrity Unit.
Using the veto forced "Travis County taxpayers to partially fund the office." The action was a controversial move, because the D.A. office's been a longtime Democratic stronghold in Perry's more Republican state. Not to mention, "several prosecutors and staff lost their jobs or had to be reassigned," which puts a financial and time management burden on the office.
For the sake of Texas, Governor Perry should resign following his indictment on two criminal felony counts involving abuse of office.— Joaquin Castro (@JoaquinCastrotx) August 15, 2014
Supporters of the District Attorney feel the veto and leaning on the officer of the court was political retribution. U.S. House Representative Joaquin Castro, a San Antonio Democrat, spoke out against the governor. "For the sake of Texas, Governor Perry should resign following his indictment on two criminal felony counts involving abuse of office."
However, those connected with the indicted politician believe the Democrats have the situation completely wrong. Former chief of staff Ray Sullivan publicly blasted "the liberal media – Slate, Salon – and therefore for the national media" bias and need for settling of scores.
"It is beyond ridiculous that Travis County is pursuing the governor, after letting the seriously drunk, police-disrespecting DA stay in office."
News (@KFOX14) August 15, 2014
Lehmberg received a DWI last year and she pled guilty—earning a 45-day jail sentence, which the Statesman calls "an unusually harsh sentence for a first-time drunken driving charge." She later apologized to the public, very contrite on the "inexcusable" actions.
"I will continue to do everything in my power, to make sure there is never a repeat of that kind of conduct." She also filed a lawsuit to keep her position.
The D.A.’s bad judgment led the attempt to force her resignation, an act that ultimately failed. After using the veto once the resignation plan fell short, the 64-year-old offered a rather cutting remark on the civil servants capabilities.
“Despite the otherwise good work (of) the Public Integrity Unit’s employees, I cannot in good conscience support continued state funding for an office with statewide jurisdiction at a time when the person charged with ultimate responsibility of that unit has lost the public’s confidence.”
The irony should be fairly obvious about losing anyone confidence.
After looking over the current case against Rick Perry, San Antonio special prosecutor Michael McCrum remarked on the strong argument against the governor. After "an immense amount of work" that included interviewing "over 40 people who were related in some way to the events that happened, prosecution seemed an easy answer.
"The law is the law, and the elements are the elements.”
McCrum noted prosecuting an active governor "carries a level of importance," but office cannot hide the breaking of laws. After the lawyer "presented everything possible to grand jury,” he left the decision up to those charged with delivering justice.
Once the indictment was registered, McCrum said he would officially arrange the booking of the governor, as well as officially notify the charges in a court of law, on Monday.
San Antonio Express-News reminds readers that in 1917, Gov. James Edward Ferguson was impeached based on "charges including misapplication of public funds, embezzlement and diversion of a special fund." And later in the 1970s, Gov. Preston Smith faced a stock scandal in Sharpstown that "pointed to as an unindicted co-conspirator."
A copy of the indictment against Texas Governor Rick Perry: pic.twitter.com/EurECsZ6sH— KVR News (@KVRNews) August 15, 2014
"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."
And this hasn't changed any outlook on a possible presidential run in 2016. Directly after the announcement, Perry tweeted: “Help RickPAC elect candidates who support a strong border, new jobs, smaller gov’t, and fiscal responsibility.” He attempted to run on the Republican ticket in 2012, but fell in the primaries to Mitt Romney.
As for the possibly punishments for the charges?
“The first charge carries a punishment of 5-99 years and a fine of up to $10,000. The second charge is punishable by 2-10 years and a fine of up to $10,000.” It’s possible to earn 109 years in jail if found guilty. However, it’s easier to presume the governor will be charged with the smallest amount of time and possible suspended sentence.
It looks like the next few years might offer a change for the state of Texas if he's found guilty.