Day After Judge's Ruling, Perry Vows to Keep Fighting Indictment

Gov. Rick Perry walks into a press conference with his legal team on Jan. 28, 2015.
Gov. Rick Perry walks into a press conference with his legal team on Jan. 28, 2015.

* Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout.

Former Gov. Rick Perry on Wednesday decried a criminal case against him as an attack on his right to free speech that amounted to "the criminalization of politics," one day after a judge ruled that the case could move forward.

"I know my actions were right when faced with a public official's illegal, unethical, and embarrassing public behavior," Perry said, referring to Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg's drunk driving arrest in 2013.  

On Tuesday, Judge Bert Richardson gave the criminal case against Perry the green light to proceed, rejecting Perry's attorneys' claims that two criminal charges against Texas' longest-serving governor should be tossed because they violated the Texas and U.S. constitutions. 

Richardson said that by law, it was premature to consider a constitutional challenge in the pre-trial stage. 

 

Perry, his defense team by his side, spoke to reporters at a downtown Austin hotel following a tour in Iowa and South Carolina in preparation for his likely presidential bid.

Perry used some of his strongest language to date about the two-count criminal indictment against him, saying that if it is allowed to proceed, it “directly targets every governor’s office in the nation.”

And Perry, who until last week was governor, insisted that time has not made him reconsider his actions of two years ago.

“I would make the same decision today,” he said.

The judge’s ruling to move the case closer to trial, he added, did not convince him otherwise.

"Yesterday's ruling didn't change the fundamental argument that I made from day one, that a governor has a constitutional right to exercise line-item veto authority in Texas and I used that authority lawfully and legally," Perry said.

On Aug. 15, Perry was indicted on one count of abusing official capacity and one count of illegally coercing a public servant, after the Republican threatened a year earlier to veto funds to the Travis County District Attorney’s office following Lehmberg’s drunken driving arrest.

Lehmberg, a Democrat, refused to step aside, and Perry vetoed $3.7 million to the state’s public integrity unit, which is housed in the Travis County District Attorney’s office.

Perry’s lawyers plan a two-prong response, lead defense attorney Tony Buzbee said: to file another challenge before Richardson and also appeal Richardson's decision to the Third Court of Appeals. There, they’ll ask for an expedited appeal, which they expect to be considered within 60 days.

Disclosure: Tony Buzbee was a major donor to The Texas Tribune in 2012. A complete list of Texas Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

Here's video of Perry's news conference:

 

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