A court of appeals has dismissed one of the charges against presidential candidate and former Governor Rick Perry. The charge of coercion of a public servant has been dismissed. A second indictment is pending but may be dismissed in the future.
In August, a grand jury indicted then-Texas Governor Perry for abusing the powers of his office by carrying out a threat to veto funding for the Travis County District Attorney’s Public Integrity Unit. That division of the agency has been accused in the past of using their power against political opponents.
The Court of Appeals held on Friday, “As to this ruling we respectfully disagree with the district court — the statute on which the ‘coercion of a public servant’ is based, as written, and as we are bound to construe it, violates the First Amendment and, accordingly, cannot be enforced.”
The second charge, abuse of official capacity, is pending but interestingly, the Court held that because Perry’s legal team urged only a constitutional violation “as applied” to him, the legal precedents of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals precluded it from giving any relief “at this juncture.” It is unknown whether the Court will dismiss this other indictment if Perry’s lawyers bring what is called a “facial” challenge to the indictment.
At this juncture and without Perry’s lawyers filing another writ of habeas corpus, the abuse of official capacity indictment is left pending.
Perry has had to pay more than $2 million to date to defend against criminal claims that many see as political “payback.”
A Travis County grand jury indicted Perry for abuse of power and coercion stemming from his threat to veto, and his ultimate veto, of $7.5 million in funding for the public integrity unit of the Travis County district attorney’s office.
Maximum punishment on the charge of abuse of power is five to 99 years in prison. The coercion charge carries a possible sentence of two to 10 years.
Perry got crossways with District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg when he told her to resign. The DA had been arrested and plead guilty to drunken driving in 2013. As reported by Breitbart Texas, an unflattering video recording of Lehmberg showed her kicking at her cell door and yelling at staffers. She was also seen sticking her tongue out, and was eventually subdued with face, arm, and leg restraints. Her blood alcohol level was 0.239 – almost three times the legal limit. Lehmberg served time in jail but stayed in office.
Perry carried out his veto threat when Lehmberg did not resign.
This article has been updated with additional information.
Lana Shadwick is a contributing writer and legal analyst for Breitbart Texas. She has served as a prosecutor and an associate court judge. Follow her on Twitter@LanaShadwick2