Gov. Rick Perry does not have to appear at an Oct. 13 court hearing in his case, but that does not mean he has a pass to skip all future hearings, Visiting Judge Bert Richardson ruled on Friday, according to the special prosecutor in the case.
This week, Perry's legal team asked Richardson, a Republican, to excuse the governor from the Oct. 13 hearing and every other pretrial hearing. Perry faces felony charges of abuse of official power and coercion of a public official. In that same motion, the lawyers noted that the special prosecutor in the case, lawyer Mike McCrum, had requested that the governor be present in every pretrial hearing. McCrum had responded that there's nothing in the criminal code that allows a defendant to be excused from every hearing.
On Friday, Richardson notified lawyers in the case that he granted the Perry team's request that the governor skip the Oct. 13 hearing because it is a status conference or a check-in by both parties. But the judge denied the request that the governor does not have to make any future appearances at pre-trial hearings.
Perry is charged with abusing his official power by threatening to veto $7.5 million in state funds from the state's public integrity unit unless Democratic Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg stepped down following a drunken driving arrest and conviction. The Travis County DA's office oversees the state-financed public integrity unit. Lehmberg refused to resign, and Perry vetoed the money.
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Perry, who has pleaded not guilty, has stood by his actions and has called the indictment "a chilling restraint on the right of free speech."