Texas Governor Pleads Not Guilty in Abuse-of-Power CaseLaurel Brubaker Calkins
Texas Governor Rick Perry, accused of abusing his authority by trying to force out a Democratic prosecutor, pleaded not guilty to two public-corruption charges.
The Republican governor, who was photographed and fingerprinted at the Travis County courthouse in Austin on Aug. 19, also entered the plea and posted a $25,000 bond, according to a court filing made public yesterday.
Perry, 64, the state’s longest-serving governor and a possible candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, is accused of abusing his authority by trying to force out a Democratic prosecutor whose office probes government corruption across Texas. Perry’s call for Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg to resign came after she was convicted of drunk driving. When she refused to step down, Perry vetoed funding for the anti-corruption unit run by her office.
The governor was charged in an indictment with abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public servant. The abuse of official capacity charge is a first-degree felony and carries a possible prison sentence of five to 99 years, said Michael McCrum, the special prosecutor in the case. The coercion charge is a third-degree felony, punishable by two to 10 years in prison, he said.
Perry and his attorneys have blasted the allegations as a politically motivated attempt to derail his potential presidential run. The governor will resume his public appearance schedule, which includes a campaign stop in New Hampshire tomorrow, the same day the judge in the case had set for an initial court appearance in Austin.
“I will fight this injustice with every fiber of my being,” Perry told supporters and reporters at a sidewalk rally before he was booked. “We will prevail.”
According to Texans for Public Justice, a nonprofit group that filed the initial complaint, Perry’s bid to remove Lehmberg was part of a cover-up designed to block an investigation of a cancer-research funding program he championed. The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas has been criticized for funneling state funds to Republican donors, and a former official was indicted last year for mishandling grant money.
McCrum, a former federal prosecutor in San Antonio, has expressed confidence in charges he said are based on more than 40 interviews and hundreds of documents.
“The grand jury has spoken that at least there’s probable cause he committed two felony crimes,” McCrum said Aug. 15.
Lehmberg has declined to comment on the case through a spokeswoman.
The case is State of Texas v. Perry, DIDC14-100139, 390th Judicial District of Travis County, Texas (Austin).