Tag Archives: rosemary lehmberg

Judge allows felony abuse-of-power case against Rick Perry to move forward

A Texas judge has refused to dismiss a felony abuse-of-power case against former Gov. Rick Perry on constitutional grounds, ruling that criminal charges against the possible 2016 presidential candidate should stand.

District Judge Bert Richardson, who like Perry is a Republican, rejected calls from Perry’s defense team to toss the case because its client was acting within his rights as chief executive of America’s second-most populous state when he publicly threatened, then carried out, a 2013 veto of state funding for public corruption prosecutors.

Richardson wrote that, “Texas law clearly precludes a trial court from making a pretrial determination regarding the constitutionality of a state penal or criminal procedural statute as the statue applies to a particular defendant.”

Perry was the longest-serving governor in Texas history. He chose not to seek re-election last year and left office Jan. 20. He is seriously considering a second run for president after his 2012 White House bid flamed out, however, and says he may announce a final decision as soon as May.

Perry has spent more than $1.1 million of his campaign funds on his defense — and Richard’s ruling means it will likely continue for several more months at least.

Tony Buzbee, one of Perry’s defense attorneys, said in a statement that the former governor “acted lawfully and properly exercised his power under the law” and that his continued prosecution “is an outrage and sets a dangerous precedent in our Democracy.”

Perry was indicted in August on charges of abuse of official power and coercion of a public servant. He is accused of publicly threatening — then making good on — the veto of $7.5 million in state funding for a public corruption division within the office of Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg. That came after Lehmberg, a Democrat whose county includes Austin, rebuffed Perry’s calls to resign following her drunken driving conviction.

Texans for Public Justice, a, Austin, left-leaning watchdog group, raised concerns that helped spark the criminal case. The group’s executive director, Craig McDonald, released a statement saying, “The prosecutor and a grand jury have said there’s compelling evidence against Perry. That evidence should be presented in court for all to see. The chances of that happening improved today.”

In a 60-page motion in August, Perry’s attorneys had said the law being used to prosecute him is unconstitutionally vague and decried “attempts to convert inescapably political disputes into criminal complaints.”

Richardson did rule that one of the charges against Perry was vague, but he gave the state time to correct it.

A grand jury in Austin — a liberal enclave in otherwise largely conservative Texas — indicted Perry. If convicted, the former governor faces a maximum prison sentence of 109 years. Perry calls the matter a political witch hunt and says he would issue the veto again if given the chance.

Top national Republicans initially praised Perry and decried the criminal charges against him — but they’ve been less vocal lately.

An exception is fellow Texan and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, who’s also mulling a presidential run. The tea party favorite said in a statement that Perry was a friend and a man of integrity and that Richard’s ruling “profoundly undermines the rule of law.”

The special prosecutor assigned to the case, San Antonio attorney Michael McCrum, has said from the start that the case is stronger than it may outwardly appear, and that it should be heard by a jury.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry indicted for abusing power

A grand jury today indicted Texas Gov. Rick Perry for allegedly abusing the powers of his office by carrying out a threat to veto funding for state prosecutors investigating public corruption, The Associated Press reports.

A special prosecutor spent months calling witnesses and presenting evidence that Perry broke the law when he promised publicly to nix $7.5 million over two years for the public integrity unit, which is run by Travis County Democratic District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg’s office — the same office that indicted U.S. Rep. Tom Delay as part of a finance probe.

Perry said he wouldn’t allow Texas to fund the unit unless Lehmberg resigned after she was arrested and pleaded guilty to drunken driving in April 2013. Her blood-alcohol level was nearly three times the legal limit for driving.

Other high-profile Republicans besides Perry called on Lehmberg to give up her post.

Several top aides to the Republican governor appeared before grand jurors in Austin, including his deputy chief of staff, legislative director and general counsel. Perry, a 2016 presidential hopeful, did not testify. The criminal investigation could damage his political prospects. His 2012 presidential bid crashed a series of embarrassing gaffes and a debate performance in which he appeared to be stoned.

Grand jurors indicted Perry on abuse of official capacity, a first-degree felony with potential punishments of five to 99 years in prison, and coercion of a public servant, a third-degree felony that carries a punishment of two to 10 years.

The second longest-serving governor in Texas history, Perry isn’t seeking re-election in November. He has not yet been arraigned on the charges.

Perry’s indictment is the first of its kind in Texas since 1917, when James “Pa” Ferguson was indicted for vetoing state funding to the University of Texas in an effort to unseat faculty and staff members he objected to. Ferguson was eventually impeached, then resigned before being convicted, allowing his wife, Miriam “Ma” Ferguson, to take over the governorship.

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Latina lesbians win Texas primaries

Mary E. Gonzalez on May 29 won a decisive Democratic primary to represent District 75 in the Texas House of Representatives.

The openly lesbian candidate, who was endorsed by the national Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, faces no Republican opponent in November. So she will win the El Paso seat and become the state’s only openly LGBT lawmaker.

“This is a big victory for Mary, for El Paso and for Texas,” said Chuck Wolfe, Victory Fund president. “The people of El Paso will be represented by a talented and committed fighter who knows how to get things done in Austin. And LGBT Texans will be represented by an authentic voice in the Capitol, standing up and speaking out for fairness and freedom for all.”

Gonzalez will become just the second openly LGBT individual to serve in the Texas Legislature. The first, former state Rep. Glen Maxey, served from 1991 to 2003.

Other Victory Fund-backed candidates winning their primary elections in Texas on May 29 include Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez and Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg.

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