Former Gov. Rick Perry’s attorneys have set to work on their next bid to have his two-count indictment dismissed, and Perry says the ongoing criminal saga will not derail his 2016 presidential bid, which he has yet to formally announce.
“We’re moving right along as we intended to, and we’ll make a decision, or actually make an announcement is a better descriptive term, in the May, June timetable just like we had intended to before this,” Perry said.
“This” is the two-count indictment that has dogged the former Texas governor since August when a grand jury found evidence to charge Perry with abuse of power and coercion of a public servant for his threat to veto funds to Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg. He made the threat after she did not step down from office after a drunken driving arrest
Perry vetoed $3.7 million that was to go to the state public integrity unit housed in Lehmberg’s office, forcing it into a sudden budget crunch.
Perry appeared before reporters in downtown Austin on Wednesday, one day after a judge ruled that the case against Perry move forward.
Bert Richardson, a visiting judge presiding over the case, ruled that Perry’s legal team had prematurely raised constitutional objections to the charges. But Richardson, who last November was elected to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, hinted to the Perry legal team that if they had raised different issues, chiefly that the abuse-of-power count was vague, he would have looked at that argument more closely.
Perry’s lead defense lawyer Tony Buzbee said he would follow up on the judge’s suggestion and file another request to quash the indictment for that very reason. The defense team will ask for an expedited appeal of Richardson’s entire ruling from the Texas Third Court of Appeals.
“We’re not going to let any grass run under our feet,” Buzbee said.
Perry, who just flew back to Austin after a series of public events in Iowa and South Carolina this week, seemed buoyed by the support he says he got while on the road.
“What I hear overwhelmingly from folks out there is great support for standing up for the Constitution,” Perry said. “Americans are looking for a leader who’s not afraid to stand up, not be intimidated. Standing up for the rule of law and standing up for the United States Constitution is a good thing”
Perry called the case against him “the criminalization of politics" and that he does not regret his actions of two years ago.
“Make no mistake this prosecution sets a dangerous precedent in our country and it directly targets the authority of every governor’s office in the nation,” he said.
Democrats rejected Perry’s belief that he was following the law, or that the case won’t impact his future plans.
"The decision by fellow Republican, Judge Bert Richardson, to reject Rick Perry’s motion to dismiss his criminal indictment is a political and legal body blow,” said Matt Angle of the left-leaning Lone Star Project. “Surely by now, Rick Perry knows getting indicted is never a good way to differentiate yourself from other presidential candidates."
Disclosure: Tony Buzbee was a major donor to The Texas Tribune in 2012. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.