Perry files habeas corpus, seeks dismissal of criminal charges

By Marilyn Tennissen | Aug 26, 2014

Texas Gov. Rick Perry is fighting allegations that he abused his power by asking a state court to dismiss the criminal charges against him.

In an Application for Pretrial Writ of Habeas Corpus filed Aug. 25 in the Travis County 390th Judicial District, his attorneys said the charges against Perry are unconstitutional.

The governor was indicted Aug. 15, accused of abusing his official capacity when he threatened to veto funds to her office after Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg was arrested for drunk driving.

“Continued prosecution of Governor Perry on the current indictment is unprecedented, insupportable and simply impermissible,” the attorneys wrote in their brief. “This court should not hesitate to dismiss both counts of the indictment and bar the prosecution, immediately if not sooner.”

Perry’s attorneys include Anthony Buzbee of Galveston, Thomas Phillips of Baker Botts LLP in Austin and David L. Botsford of Botsford & Roark in Austin.

Botsford, acting as petitioner, wrote that the Texas Penal Code is “fatally vague and overbroad” and fails to give reasonable notice to any official about “what is permissible conduct on the one hand, and what is felonious conduct on the other.”

A Travis County grand jury indicted the governor of Texas on Aug. 15 on charges of abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public servant. Abuse of official capacity is a first-degree felony that carries a sentence of up to 99 years in prison, while the coercion charge is a third-degree felony with a sentence range of two to 10 years.

The indictment says Perry unlawfully used his power when he threatened to veto funding to the state office that investigates public corruption when the unit’s director was sentenced for drunk driving.

The Public Integrity Unit investigates allegations of corruption, political wrongdoing and tax fraud and is housed in the Travis County District Attorney’s Office.

In April 2013, Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, a Democrat, was arrested and pleaded guilty to drunk driving. She reportedly had a blood alcohol content almost three times the legal limit, and is seen acting belligerently in a jailhouse video.

Perry, a likely Republican candidate for president in 2016, said Lehmberg’s behavior was inappropriate and asked her to resign. She refused, and the indictment alleges that Perry threatened to veto funding to her public corruption unit if she didn’t step down.

Lehmberg was jailed on a to 45-day sentence, and still would 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 funding request, cutting $7.5 million from the Public Integrity Unit.

Travis County Case No. D1DC14-100139

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