Texas Democrats Call for Perry to Step Down After Abuse of Power Indictment

Texas Democrats Call for Perry to Step Down After Abuse of Power Indictment

AUSTIN (KVUE) -- A grand jury has chosen to indict Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Friday following an investigation into whether the governor abused his power by vetoing state funds for the Travis County District Attorney's Office last year.

Gov. Rick Perry is charged with the following:

Count I - Abuse of Official Capacity, a first-degree felony 

Count II - Coercion of Public Servant, a third-degree felony

Perry vetoed state funds for the office after District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg refused to resign following a DWI conviction.

After the veto, Perry said he could not give money to Lehmberg's office because she had lost the public's confidence after her arrest in April 2013. Lehmberg pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 45 days in jail. She served 21 days.

Upon his indictment, Perry must turn himself in to the Travis County Jail, where he will be booked, fingerprinted and have his mug shot taken. A pre-trial hearing will be arranged within the next few weeks.

Defense attorneys could file a motion to have the indictment thrown out, which would delay a trial, or seek to have a trial within the next 90 days.

Perry can continue to serve as governor while under indictment. He can also continue as governor if convicted, but he could be stripped of office through a separate legislative removal process.

Perry could be charged with coercion of a public servant, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine, abuse of official capacity, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine, and bribery, punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Last year, Lehmberg was allowed to keep her job following a civil trial based on a lawsuit filed by an Austin lawyer citing a Texas constitutional code states an elected official can be removed for intoxication on or off duty.

A complaint by watchdog group Texas for Justice alleged Perry violated state laws concerning bribery, coercion and abuse of authority.

The veto meant that the Public Integrity Unit, which investigates ethics complaints against politicians statewide and is housed in Lehmberg's office, was left without a $7.5 million two-year allocation. Travis County commissioners later agreed to partially fund the operation, but two employees lost their jobs.

A Perry spokesperson said that the governor broke no laws and exercised his constitutional veto authority through line-item vetoes in the budget.

A Texas judge called for special prosecutor Michael McCrum to look into Perry's actions last year. A grand jury spent four months looking at evidence in the case and hearing testimony from members of the governor's staff, all of whom testified before the grand jury.

This case is the last open investigation related to Lehmberg's DWI arrest.

Mary Anne Wiley, general counsel for Gov. Rick Perry issued this statement following the indictment Friday afternoon:

"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."

The Texas Democratic Party immediately called for Perry to step down following the indictment Friday afternoon.

"Governor Rick Perry has brought dishonor to his office, his family and the state of Texas. Texans deserve to have leaders that stand up for what is right and work to help families across Texas. The indictment today shows a failure of Governor Perry to follow the law," said Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa in a statement. "[...]We call on Governor Perry to immediately step down from office. Texans deserve real leadership and this is unbecoming of our Governor."


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