The criminal case against former Texas governor Rick Perry will move forward after a district judge refused to dismiss the abuse of power charges.
Perry was indicted in August on felony charges of abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public servant for allegedly threatening the Travis County district attorney after she was convicted of drunk driving. The indictment claimed the governor said that if the DA, Rosemary Lehmberg, did not resign that he would cut funding to her office.
Perry’s legal team, including Tony Buzbee of Galveston, argued that the then-governor was within his rights as chief executive when he threatened to veto the budget for Lehmberg’s Public Integrity Unit. But on Jan. 27, visiting District Judge Bert Richardson shot down Perry’s request for dismissal.
Texas’ current governor, former attorney general Greg Abbott, said he thinks Perry was acting within the scope of his office.
“The Texas governor is endowed by our Constitution with the authority to veto legislation, and it is outrageous and inappropriate that a Governor would be prosecuted for exercising that authority,” Abbott said in a statement. “The continued legal proceedings against Governor Perry conflict with the authority granted to all Governors by the Texas Constitution, and I trust they will be ultimately resolved in a manner consistent with the Constitution.”
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said the indictment against Perry is “frivolous” and said the Travis County DA’s Office has a “sorry history of politicized prosecutions.”
“From the outset, this indictment has been a political witch-hunt. It is not a crime for a governor to exercise his constitutional authority to veto legislation,” Cruz said in a prepared statement.
Newly elected Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said the Constitutional veto authority of the governor is “an important and necessary tool” in the balance of powers of the state government. Paxton said governors should be able to utilize the power “without undue fear of prosecution.”
Perry has proved himself to be “an exceptional and trustworthy leader,” who is intent on “doing the most good for the people of Texas,” Paxton said.
After the drunk driving arrest, Lehmberg was jailed on a 45-day sentence, but did not resign.
A grand jury investigated Lehmberg for judicial misconduct but decided she did not need to be removed from office.
Perry later did veto the budget request for the Public Integrity Unity, cutting $7.5 million in funds.