Oops: Rick Perry Indicted for Abuse of Power, Coercion UPDATED
Well, Gov. Rick Perry still has great presidential hair, but now he's also been indicted on two felony counts.
Yep, that's right folks. It turns out that even the governor of the great state of Texas can't get away with using both the power of his office and tax-payer money to bribe an elected official to quit office. The Austin American-Statesman reports that on Friday a Travis County grand jury indicted Perry on two felony counts -- one count of abuse of official capacity, a first degree felony, and one count of coercion of a public servant, a third-degree felony.
Last year, Perry allegedly tried to push Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg to resign after a pretty messy drunk driving arrest (and imagine how bad it had to be to see a DA actually arrested.) Perry stands accused of threatening to withhold $7.5 million in funding from the Travis County DA's Public Integrity Unit, which has the unique mandate to investigate public corruption in the State of Texas, if Lehmberg didn't step down. She refused to, and Perry just so happened to follow through on that whole veto-of-funds thing.
It's entirely possible, of course, that the whole thing was a coincidence. But the a grand jury didn't think so after months of investigation. Journalist Matthew Keys has posted the full two-page indictment here.
Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa issued a statement calling for Perry's resignation after news of the indictment broke Friday. "Governor Rick Perry has brought dishonor to his office, his family and the state of Texas," he said. Meanwhile, the folks at Progress Texas are miffed that Guv Goodhair has so far billed the good people of Texas some $40,000 for his legal defense.
Despite his disastrous run in 2012, it had seemed entirely possible that Perry would have another go at a White House run, but we have to wonder if that's a little tricky with a couple of indictments hanging around his neck. Now that he faces felony chargs, it's entirely possible that Perry, instead of running for president or retiring to California, might need to comb those lovely locks so he looks good for his mugshot.
Governor Rick Perry's statement:
"As governor, I took an oath to faithfully uphold the constitution of Texas, a pledge that I have kept every day as I've worked on behalf of Texans for the last 14 years. This same constitution clearly outlines the authority of any governor to veto items at his or her discretion. Just as I have following every legislative session during my service as governor, I exercised this authority to veto funding for an office whose leadership had lost the public's confidence by acting inappropriately and unethically.
"I wholeheartedly and unequivocally stand behind my veto, and will continue to defend this lawful action of my executive authority as governor. We don't settle political differences with indictments in this country. It is outrageous that some would use partisan political theatrics to rip away at the very fabric of our state's constitution.
"This indictment amounts to nothing more than an abuse of power and I cannot, and will not, allow that to happen. I intend to fight against those who would erode our state's constitution and laws purely for political purposes, and I intend to win. I will explore every legal avenue to expedite this matter and bring it to a swift conclusion. I am confident we will ultimately prevail, that this farce of a prosecution will be revealed for what it is, and that those responsible will be held to account."
Update August 18, at 11:40 a.m: Officials will not issue an arrest warrant for Gov. Perry, the Chron reports. San Antonio lawyer Michael McCrum, the special prosecutor on the case, tells the daily that he'll only issue a summons for Perry to appear in court in lieu of an arrest warrant, since Perry is not considered a flight risk. The court date for Perry's arraignment has not yet been set.