Former Gov. Rick Perry presented an “angry man” persona at a news conference on Wednesday when responding to a court ruling on the abuse of office indictment against him.
He needn’t have been so angry. His lawyers are making headway.
Judge Bert Richardson ruled Tuesday that the case can move forward, but he also noted weaknesses in both counts of the indictment.
Perry’s lawyers said they’ll appeal the ruling, while at the same time taking advantage of Richardson’s suggestion that they reword their motion to dismiss one of the counts and try again.
It’s crucial to Perry that he remove the shadow of this indictment as soon as possible. He’s preparing another run for the Republican presidential nomination, and the indictment will make some big-money campaign donors reluctant to back him.
The charges might be bogus, as Perry has insisted since the indictment was handed down in August. For sure, Perry is innocent until found guilty in court.
But his political aspirations suffer every day the case survives.
In 2013, Perry said he would veto state funding for the Public Integrity Unit, a part of the Travis County District Attorney’s Office that prosecutes crimes by public officials, unless the DA, Democrat Rosemary Lehmberg, resigned following a drunk-driving arrest.
Lehmberg pleaded guilty but would not resign. Perry vetoed the funding.
The indictment charges him with abuse of office and unlawful coercion.
“I know my actions were right when faced with a public official’s illegal, unethical, and embarrassing public behavior,” Perry said Wednesday. “I would make the same decision today.”
His lawyers argue he acted within his constitutional powers and freedoms. Richardson said he can’t rule on constitutional questions before a trial.
But he also said the count is too vague: It never uses the word veto and thus doesn’t let Perry know exactly what he’s charged with doing wrong. Prosecutors can reword the indictment, and Perry’s lawyers can file a new motion.
Richardson also said the coercion count does not explain why Perry would not be shielded by a state law that exempts official acts by members of a governing body.
The indictment weakens Perry; poor wording weakens the indictment.