Texas Governor Rick Perry ()
Editor’s note: This story has been updated.
A Travis County grand jury has indicted Gov. Rick Perry for two felonies related to his conduct when vetoing funding for the Travis County District Attorney’s Public Integrity Unit, in the wake of D.A. Rosemary Lehmberg’s drunk driving conviction.
Perry now faces one count of abuse of official capacity and one count of coercion of a public servant.
The indictment in State of Texas v. James Richard Perry says that the 390th District Court grand jury found that, on June 14, Perry intended to harm Lehmberg and the public integrity unit. He misused government property, contrary to his oath of office as a public servant. The property in question had a value in excess of $200,000 and was approved by the Texas Legislature to fund the public integrity unit, alleges the indictment.
The indictment said that on June 10 to June 14, Perry used “means of coercion” by threatening to veto Legislature-approved funding for the public integrity unit unless Lehmberg resigned as D.A. Perry intentionally tried to influence her in the performance of her duty “to continue to carry out her responsibilities as the elected District Attorney for the County of Travis,” alleged the indictment.
The complaint against Perry that prompted the grand jury investigation by Texans for Public Justice, a nonprofit advocacy group in Austin, alleged that the governor committed coercion of a public servant or voter, bribery, abuse of official capacity and official oppression. The complaint alleged, “Perry threatened to use the official power of his elected office to veto the legislative budget appropriation” unless Lehmberg resigned and then “subsequently did use the power of his office” to veto the appropriation.
No one from the governor’s press office immediately returned a call seeking comment. Neither did Perry’s criminal-defense lawyer, David Botsford. Lehmberg and Senior Judge Bert Richardson, the judge assigned to the case, also didn’t return calls.
Special Prosecutor Speaks
Michael McCrum, the special prosecutor in the case, said that he might have been willing to talk about his investigation if the grand jury had no billed Perry.
“Since an indictment has been returned, I just am choosing not to do that,” said McCrum, owner of McCrum Law Office in San Antonio.
McCrum said there is evidence to support the charges against Perry but that he can’t discuss the findings of his investigation or disclose the witnesses who testified before the grand jury. He said that he’s not surprised at the outcome.
When asked why Perry was not charged with all four crimes alleged in the Texans for Public Justice complaint, McCrum said, “I looked at all statutes. I thought four potentially could fit. In addition to the two charged, I looked at the offenses of official oppression and bribery. At the end of the day, the grand jury returned an indictment just on the other two statutes. … There’s a variety of reasons they may have done that. I don’t know.”
McCrum said that he would meet next week with Perry’s criminal-defense lawyer, David Botsford, and Senior Judge Bert Richardson, who was appointed to the case. They will decide when to arraign Perry, which “really starts the proceeding forward,” McCrum explained.
When asked how it feels as an attorney to be in such a position, McCrum replied, “I think anybody in this position would feel a great responsibility and duty to do all that he or she can do to make sure that everything is done appropriately, righteously, under the law. So I feel that—I feel a great responsibility and duty towards the citizens of the state and the citizens of Travis County, as well as to Mr. Perry and his family, to just make sure everything is done appropriately.”
McCrum declined to comment about the punishment that he feels that Perry deserves for his alleged conduct.
“Obviously, at some point, it may be appropriate for me to make a recommendation of that nature, but we are not there yet. At this point, he has been charged: The grand jury has spoken. Now, my responsibility is to go forward.”
On a historical note, McCrum said that the last Texas governor who was indicted was then-Gov. James Edward “Pa” Ferguson in the early 1900s. Ferguson had wanted a University of Texas System regent to resign, but the regent refused. Ferguson vetoed funding for the UT System.
“It’s interesting facts and interesting analogous facts. Ultimately, he was convicted, by the way,” noted McCrum.