8/16/2014 4:01:00 PM A look at the charges facing Gov. Perry
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas Gov. Rick Perry is his state’s first governor in nearly a century to be indicted on criminal charges. The potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate said the allegations of abuse of power and coercion of a public official are politically motivated.
Rick Perry vowed Saturday to fight the indictment against him, calling it an “outrageous” abuse of power.
“This indictment amounts to nothing more than abuse of power and I cannot and will not allow that to happen,” Perry said at a news conference a day after he was charged with violating state law.
On Friday, a Travis County grand jury indicted the Republican on two felony counts of abuse of power for making good on a veto threat.
The possible 2016 presidential hopeful again dismissed the charges as nakedly political. Perry is the first Texas governor since 1917 to be indicted.
The indictments are related to Perry vetoing funding for a Travis County unit investigating public corruption last year because the Democratic official heading the office refused to resign after being convicted of drunken driving.
The investigative unit is based in Austin, a heavily Democratic city where the grand jury was seated. The rest of Texas is heavily Republican.
Here are some questions and answers about the charges:
Q: What started all this? A: After Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg was arrested for drunken driving in April 2013, Perry threatened to veto $7.5 million in funding for the state’s ethics watchdog unit in her office unless she resigned. Lehmberg is an elected Democrat and Republicans have long accused her public corruption prosecutors of targeting conservatives.
Q: Was Perry allowed to veto the money? A: Yes. The governor has line-item veto authority to nix any spending in the state budget.
Q: Then why the grand jury investigation? A: Lehmberg refused to resign and Perry vetoed the funding for her office. A left-leaning watchdog group filed a formal complaint that accused Perry of trying to leverage his power and force an elected official from office. A Texas judge then assigned a special prosecutor to investigate.
Q: How strong are the charges against Perry? A: He is accused of abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public servant, which are both felonies and carry possible prison sentences. But legal experts and even some Democrats believe getting a conviction will be challenging, largely because there is no question that Perry wields veto authority. They say proving this went beyond hardball politics will be a difficult bar for prosecutors to reach.
Q: What’s next for Perry? A: The longest-serving governor in Texas history didn’t seek re-election and will step down in January after 14 years in office. He’s expected to be formally arraigned in an Austin court as early as next week and has given no indication the charges will stop him from considering another run for the White House. But having the word “indictment” associated with Perry could tarnish his image if he decides to seek the presidency.