AUSTIN, Texas (CN) - A Texas judge on Tuesday refused to throw out the felony abuse of power and coercion charges against Gov. Rick Perry, in the first ruling handed down since Perry was indicted.
In a slew of filings since the Aug. 15 indictment, Perry's defense team claimed the charges must be voided because special prosecutor Michael McCrum is acting illegally, based on technicalities in paperwork relating to his swearing in to the post.
At a Nov. 6 pretrial hearing, Houston attorney Tony Buzbee said McCrum did not correctly sign his oath of office, and took the bribery oath out of order.
"I don't think it's too much to expect that the rule of the law and the letter of law be followed if you're trying to take away somebody's liberty," Buzbee said. "We can't mostly follow the Constitution."
But Visiting Judge Bert Richardson rejected the motion to quash, effectively pushing the criminal case against the Texas governor closer to trial.
"This court concludes that Mr. McCrum's authority was not voided by the procedural irregularities in how and when the oath of office and statement of officer were administered and filed," Richardson ruled.
Richardson added that both parties agreed McCrum did take the oath of office.
"Therefore, given the fact that the parties do not dispute that Mr. McCrum did in fact take the oath of office, this court concludes that the lack of Mr. McCrum's signature on the oath of office does not invalidate his oath," the 16-page ruling states.
Richardson has yet to rule on defense motions to dismiss that challenge the constitutionality of the charges.
Perry was indicted by a Travis County grand jury on two felony counts: 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 drunk-driving arrest.
When Lehmberg, a Democrat, refused, Perry issued a line-item veto of Senate Bill 1, from June 2013, stripping her office's Public Integrity Unit of more than $7 million that had been earmarked by state lawmakers.
Perry claims that his actions were in line with the Texas governor's veto authority and that the charges are a violation of his free speech.
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.