Perry Asks Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to Dismiss Final Charge

Dismiss Final Charge
Photo: Getty Images/Drew Anthony Smith

Lawyers for former Governor and 2016 Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry have petitioned the highest criminal court in Texas and are asking the court to dismiss the final charge.

It was just one year ago when a Travis County grand jury handed down two indictments against the then-Governor of Texas.

A Travis County grand jury indicted Perry for abuse of power and coercion of a public servant.

The indictments stem from his threat to veto, and his ultimate line-item veto, of $7.5 million in funding for the public integrity unit of the Travis County District Attorney’s Office.

Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg got crossways when Perry told her to resign. The DA had been arrested and plead guilty to drunken driving in 2013. Perry carried out his veto threat when Lehmberg did not resign.

At the time of the indictments, even President Obama senior aide and confidante, David Axelrod, called the indictments “pretty sketchy,” as reported by Breitbart News.

Breitbart News also reported that liberals like actress Mia Farrow, famed constitutional and criminal attorney Alan Dershowitz, and New York Magazine‘s Jonathan Chait, have all criticized the indictments’ questionable underpinnings.

The indictments have been called “pretty thin,” and “fishy” by others on the left.

Both of the charges against the former Governor are felonies.

Maximum punishment on the abuse of official capacity charge is five to 99 years in prison. The punishment range on the coercion charge is from two to 10 years in prison.

An intermediate court of appeals dismissed the coercion charge in July, as reported by Breitbart Texas. The State may appeal that decision to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

The Austin Court of Appeals wrote when dismissing the charge, “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.”

This ruling left the abuse of official capacity pending. 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.”

Perry’s legal team filed a petition on Tuesday asking the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to determine four issues concerning the abuse of official capacity charge.

Specifically, Texas’ highest criminal court has been asked to determine whether all nine of Perry’s constitutional challenges were “as applied” challenges to the abuse of official capacity statute and therefore not cognizable in a pretrial application for writ of habeas corpus. These include arguments under separation of powers, and the Texas Constitution’s speech and debate clause, and common law legislative immunity, among other arguments.

Former Texas Supreme Court Justice Thomas R. Phillips, lead counsel and trial lawyer Tony Buzbee, and white collar criminal defense lawyer David L. Botsford, filed the petition on behalf of Perry.

As of mid-July, the former Governor has had to pay more than $2 million to defend against charges that many see as political “payback,” as reported by Breitbart Texas.

Lana Shadwick is a contributing writer and legal analyst for Breitbart Texas. She has served as a prosecutor and associate judge in Texas. Follow her on Twitter @LanaShadwick2

Rick Perry Petition for Discretionary Review CCA


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