Rick Perry Wants Felony Charges Dismissed
AUSTIN (CN) - Gov. Rick Perry's attorneys have asked a judge to throw out the felony charges that have threatened to derail the Republican's presidential aspirations.
Perry's motion to dismiss is the first glimpse into his legal strategy, and is a mirror image of comments he and his defense team made in the days after his Aug. 15 indictment.
In court documents filed Monday, attorneys called the criminal prosecution "an unprecedented assault" on the separation of powers and a violation of Perry's free speech rights.
Austin attorney David Botsford said both indictments violate the constitutional separation of powers, and that allowing the prosecution to proceed would impose a "chilling effect on the free exercise of legitimate constitutional powers by future governors."
"Subjecting any sitting governor to a criminal prosecution and injecting the judiciary into a political dispute would be an unprecedented assault on this cherished separation of powers, and would impose an intolerable and incalculable chilling effect on the free exercise of legitimate constitutional powers by future governors," Perry's attorneys say in the Application for Pretrial Writ of Habeas Corpus.
"By seeking to criminalize not merely the veto itself, but the governor's explanation for it as well, this prosecution also violates the governor's rights under the Free Speech Clauses of the United States and Texas Constitution and the Speech or Debate Clause of the Texas Constitution."
A Travis County grand jury indicted Perry on two felony counts: abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public servant, stemming from his threat to veto money allocated to Travis County District Attorney Mary Lehmberg and the Public Integrity Unit her office controls.
Lehmberg is a Democrat. She pleaded guilty in April 2013 to criminal charges relating to her arrest on drunken driving charges.
The governor's legal team this week played a 30-second clip at an Austin press conference, showing Lehmberg acting out to officers on the night she was booked on DUI charges, at one point tied in a restraint chair and threatening officers with arrest.
She survived an attempt by Travis County Attorney David Escamilla to remove her from her job but the governor still demanded that Lehmberg resign.
Perry then issued a line-item veto of Senate Bill 1, stripping her office's Public Integrity Unit of more than $7 million, earmarked by state lawmakers.
Last week, Perry's attorneys rebutted claims that the line-item veto threat was a political strategy to deflect the attention of the DA's Public Integrity Unit away from an alleged investigation into corruption with The Cancer and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT).
Perry's critics claim that the governor wanted to shut down the Public Integrity Unit because it might turn up sweetheart deals with Perry's friends and campaign contributors, involving CPRIT.
In this week's filing, his attorneys continued to fight the indictment brought by Special Prosecutor Michael McCrum, saying the charges should be dismissed and the prosecution barred because the governor had a duty to exercise his veto power. Additionally, Perry could not have "misused government property," as the indictment claims, because he did not come in physical contact with the government funds, they say.
Perry's next hearing is scheduled was set today, Friday, at 9 a.m. in Travis County's 390th District Court.