News Column

Perry's Lawyers Try to Close Abuse Case

August 27, 2014

Matthew Waller, Times Record News

Aug. 26--Gov. Rick Per­ry's legal team wants a judge to throw out the case against the indicted governor, arguing that parts of the law pertain­ing to charges are vague and overbroad and that free speech should protect Perry from abuse of power allegations.

Perry's attorneys en­tered a filing Monday to put a stop to prosecution, and according to a time­line discussed Friday with the judge in the case, the prosecution may have a week to respond.

The two counts in the indictment filed this month, of coercion of a public servant and abuse of official capacity, has Perry looking at 109 years in prison for the maxi­mum sentence.

He is accused of threatening to veto $7.5 million in funding to the Travis County District Attorney's Office's pub­lic integrity unit, which looks into state govern­ment crimes, motor fuels tax fraud, and insurance fraud.

Perry wanted Travis County District Attor­ney Rosemary Lehmberg to step down because she pleaded guilty to a drunken driving charge and acted out during her custody, and it was cap­tured on camera.

Perry vetoed the funds, and Lehmberg is still district attorney.

"Texans deserve what their State's constitution guarantees: a Governor with the power to approve or disapprove of bills, or disapprove of certain items of appropriated funds, based on his con­sidered judgment of what best serves the public in­terest," the filing states under the header "What is at Stake in This Case."

"The exercise of this veto power is perhaps the key limitation on legisla­tive power; indeed, the veto power is an integral component of the checks and balances that assure our freedom by limiting the powers of each depart­ment of government," the filing states.

Even supposing that Perry or his staf f had com­municated that he wanted Lehmberg to resign before he made the veto, the fil­ing argues, Perry should be protected under free speech law.

Perry has a team of six high-powered attorneys. Mark Fabiani, former special counsel to former President Bill Clinton and a deputy campaign manager for former Vice President Al Gore's presidential run, announced Monday he joined the team.

"I'm proud to join Gov. Perry's outstanding team which has been assembled to fight back against this attack on the rule of law," Fabiani said in a news release. "As we move for­ward to protect the Texas Constitution and the First Amendment rights of any governor, I am confident this prosecution will be revealed to be contrary to the law and wholly meritless."

The brief argues that Perry didn't actually have access to funds, so he couldn't have mis­used them in his veto, that having the judiciary consider a veto-related case violates the Texas Constitution's separation of powers, and that por­tions of the law are vague, asserting for instance that "a threat to do a legal act does not constitute duress or coercion."

The brief also warns against criminalizing the governor's free speech rights.

Perry publicly pro­claimed his reason for vetoing the funding after the fact.

While Perry has said that the charges against him are political, special prosecutor Michael Mc-Crum has said the charges against Perry are not part of a partisan fight.

McCrum also said the law should allow the case to go forward.

"I'm confident that the law applies in this case, that the facts will bear out as sufficient to sustain a prosecution in this case," McCrum said, anticipat­ing the filing Friday.

Matthew Waller covers state news as the Scripps Austin Bureau chief. Contact him at matthew.waller@scripps.com or follow him on Twitter@waller_matthew.

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(c)2014 the Times Record News (Wichita Fallas, Texas)

Visit the Times Record News (Wichita Fallas, Texas) at www.timesrecordnews.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

Original headline: Governor Perry's attorneys aim to close case


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Source: (c)2014 the Times Record News (Wichita Fallas, Texas)


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