Official: Perry sought private grand jury entrance

05/15/2014 5:57 PM

05/15/2014 5:58 PM

An attorney for Texas Gov. Rick Perry made an unusual request to use a discreet entrance to the grand jury room that reporters have staked out since a panel began investigating accusations that the governor abused his power, an official at the center of the case said Thursday.

The disclosure was made by Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, a Democrat whose office Perry vowed to strip funding for last summer if she didn’t resign following a drunken driving arrest. An Austin grand jury is now investigating whether that veto threat was legal and is expected to soon hear Perry’s side of the story.

So far, all witnesses have entered through a door visible to the public. Lehmberg said there’s only one back way into the grand jury room — through her office, which is next to it.

Lehmberg said Perry’s attorney, David Botsford, asked the judge who seated the grand jury whether accessing a special entrance was possible.

“I said that is not something we routinely do — that is, bring witnesses secretly to the grand jury,” Lehmberg said. “We have had many public officials appear through the grand jury and all come through the front door of the lobby. But if the judge calls me and wants to do that, I'll do what’s appropriate.”

Asked if she was inclined to do the Republican governor or his staff any favors, Lehmberg said she didn’t want to comment further.

Perry spokeswoman Lucy Nashed declined to comment on the request.

“We respect the longstanding legal principle of grand jury confidentiality and therefore it would be inappropriate to comment on the proceedings,” she said.

The Austin American-Statesman first reported the request.

Perry is leaving office in January and hasn’t ruled out another presidential run in 2016. His aides have said he was within his power to issue the veto.

The grand jury is scheduled to meet again Friday. Democratic state Sen. Kirk Watson was among three witnesses who appeared before the grand jury last week, and all said afterward they were sworn not to discuss their testimony.

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