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Saturday, May 25, 2024 | Back issues
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Attorney’s Vacation Delays|Rick Perry’s Court Date

AUSTIN (CN) - Texas's highest criminal court has rescheduled oral arguments in former Gov. Rick Perry's felony case to accommodate his lead attorney's prepaid trip to Italy.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals moved the arguments back from Nov. 4 to Nov. 18. The nine-member court will decide whether to send Perry, 65, to trial on an abuse of official capacity charge.

Perry's attorney David Botsford told the court that he and his wife already paid for an eight-day vacation to Florence, departing Oct. 27. The couple returns to Austin the evening of Nov. 4.

Botsford said in an Oct. 8 filing that as lead counsel on Perry's appeal, he will present the oral argument and asked that it be moved "to any other date convenient to the court."

Prosecutors did not oppose the motion.

In August last year, Perry became the first sitting Texas governor to be indicted since 1917, when a Travis County grand jury handed down two felony counts against him: abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public servant.

The indictment came after Perry followed through on threats to pull funding from Travis County District Attorney Mary Lehmberg's ethics investigation unit if she did not resign after a drunken-driving arrest.

When Lehmberg, a Democrat, refused to resign, Perry issued a line-item veto that stripped her office's Public Integrity Unit of more than $7 million that had been earmarked by the Legislature during the 2013 session.

The state's case has survived for 14 months, winding its way from Travis County Court and the all-Republican Third Court of Appeals, before landing in the Court of Criminal Appeals.

Perry's attorneys tried unsuccessfully to have the charges dismissed, first on a technicality and then on constitutional grounds. Visiting Judge Bert Richardson, a Republican elected to the Court of Criminal Appeals last November, has refused to dismiss the indictment.

As the visiting judge, Richardson recused himself from the appeal, for the remaining judges on the Court of Criminal Appeals to decide the matter.

Perry's legal team then appealed Richard's ruling to the Third Court of Appeals, where at least half of the court's six justices are Perry appointees.

The strategy paid off. In July, the Austin-based appeals court dismissed the coercion of a public servant charge as unconstitutional.

The court left the abuse of official capacity charge intact and Perry's legal team appealed to the Court of Criminal Appeals in August. They say the remaining charge is vague and unspecific.

In September this year Perry became the first 2016 presidential candidate to quit the race. He acknowledged that the indictment hurt his fundraising ability, and he never managed to persuasively reinvent himself to voters after his dismal 2012 national roll-out.

Since the early days of the indictment, Perry has claimed that his actions were allowed by the Texas governor's veto authority. He has maintained his innocence and his attorneys have said that the charges are politically motivated.

Prosecutors have said in court filings that the state has more evidence to present, and that Perry's challenges should be reserved for trial.

The remaining felony is punishable by 5 to 99 years in prison.

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