Indictment of Perry is not a full legal case

Posted Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014  comments  Print Reprints
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When an Austin grand jury delivered a two-count indictment of Gov. Rick Perry late Friday, many were quick to judge.

He should resign, said Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa, somewhat predictably calling for an abrupt end to the 13-plus-year Republican governor’s public service.

That’s ridiculous. Perry is innocent of the charges unless — and plenty of people argue it will never get this far — a fair and impartial Texas judicial system eventually decides otherwise.

Anyone who has watched Perry in office, especially after seeing his forceful responses to the indictment over the weekend, knows it’s also ridiculous to think he would fall on his own sword or in any way dial back his own political career.

At the same time, those who see only politics in the indictment, who believe it was contrived solely as a way to steer the political process, are not seeing the whole picture.

Perry is accused of criminal conduct in attempting to coerce Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg into resigning after she was arrested for driving almost three-times-the-legal-limit drunk and generally making a fool of herself when she was booked into jail.

He threatened to veto, and eventually did veto, $7.5 million in state funding for the Public Integrity Unit, which investigates and prosecutes cases of official corruption under the Travis DA’s supervision.

Vetoing bills passed by the Legislature and line items in the state budget is the governor’s prerogative. He’s free to threaten a veto to influence what bills get passed or what gets funded in the budget — although Perry has not made it part of his governing style to issue veto threats.

But it’s different if he threatens a veto to influence the action of an autonomously elected official at an entirely different level of government.

For that, the grand jury decided there is reason to believe Perry may have violated state law.

An independent special prosecutor with bipartisan credentials, Michael McCrum of San Antonio, spent a year investigating a formal complaint filed against Perry by a liberal-leaning activist group and presented his findings to the grand jury.

McCrum was appointed by senior state District Judge Robert Richardson, a Republican and also of San Antonio.

To say that politics has guided all of this is to say that the individuals involved and the grand jury process itself are corrupt. That stretches credulity too far.

Perry’s defense attorney, David L. Botsford of Austin, whose $450-an-hour fee is being paid by Texas taxpayers, can be trusted to fight the indictment, which he says has no legal basis.

He can contest the charges against his client, even the laws on which the charges are based.

An indictment is not a legal case. We’re eager to see and judge the legal case behind this one.

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