Vol 31, Issue 46 Print Issue

Lehmberg: Perry Attorney Wants Private Entrance to Grand Jury Room

Gov. Rick Perry holds his Texas driver's license and his wallet as he heads to a west Austin early voting site on October 30, 2013.
Gov. Rick Perry holds his Texas driver's license and his wallet as he heads to a west Austin early voting site on October 30, 2013.

Grand jury witnesses in Travis County usually enter through the front door of the Blackwell-Thurman Criminal Justice Center. And that's usually where reporters hang out during more newsy grand jury investigations.

But there is a back way into the grand jury used by prosecutors and judges. And the private attorney for Gov. Rick Perry has asked if he can use it for witnesses for his client, according to the Travis County district attorney's office. 

"Yes, I was asked whether there was a way for the governor's staff to get to the grand jury room without walking through the lobby," Lehmberg said. "I believe everyone should enter the grand jury room like everyone else. ... It's a short walk."

Lehmberg's office was contacted because the entrance to the grand jury room goes through her office. 

The grand jury is investigating whether Perry overstepped his authority when he withheld $7.5 million from Lehmberg's office, which houses the state's public integrity unit. Perry wanted Lehmberg to step down after her drunken driving arrest. She didn't and the funds were withheld, forcing the county to scramble to replace the money.

Lehmberg learned of the request when the special judge presiding over the grand jury — Bert Richardson of San Antonio — contacted a member of her staff about the back entrance.

"It was clear to my staffer that the request was coming from David Botsford," who is Perry's $450-an-hour attorney, Lehmberg said. 

Calls to Richardson and Botsford were not immediately returned. The governor's office could not immediately be reached for comment.