AUSTIN (CN) - Gov. Rick Perry made his first courtroom appearance Thursday since he was indicted on felony abuse of power charges. The two-hour hearing was taken up by attorneys battling over technicalities.
Perry entered the courtroom through a back entrance and quietly sipped on coffee throughout the pretrial hearing. He sat between his attorneys Tony Buzbee and David Botsford through nearly two hours of arguments that centered on whether Special Prosecutor Michael McCrum is acting illegally because he was not properly sworn in to the post.
Visiting Judge Bert Richardson did not immediately rule on defense motions to dismiss and quash the indictment, indicating he would rule "sometime next week," though he said he was "buried in motions."
Perry's defense team cited the Texas Constitution and Secretary of State instructions to show that McCrum is "acting without any authority."
Perry's attorneys also want prosecutors ordered to release a transcript of grand jury testimony. The judge has yet to rule on that.
A Travis County grand jury in August indicted the Republican governor 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 remained defiant outside of the courtroom, insisting that his actions were legal because the state constitution clearly outlines the governor's veto power.
"I'm here today to reinstate the lawful, constitutional authority of a governor to use his or her veto authority," Perry said.
"I stand behind that veto and I would make that veto again."
He repeated his attorneys' arguments that McCrum's actions in the case "are not valid due to the multiple failures to comply with constitutional and statutory requirements."
During the pretrial hearing, Buzbee introduced a host of evidence through a large projector set up in the courtroom to sway the judge to throw out the indictment, or as the Houston attorney put it: "Game over."
Buzbee said McCrum did not follow the correct sequence by signing the anti-bribery statement out of order, "and did everything backward."
"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," he told Richardson.
McCrum called defense arguments "a red herring" and reiterated that the sequence in which he was administered the oath of office does not negate his authority in the case.
He said Richardson, based in San Antonio, as is McCrum, administered the oath to him. He told reporters that he signed the anti-bribery statement "a minute or two after I took the oath."
"It seems pretty obvious that the arguments are made to play out to the media and to make inflammatory arguments that have no basis at all, no basis of fact even, to get the attention of the electorate. Clearly that's what's going on here," McCrum said outside the courtroom.
"I fully expect the court to deny the motions next week," he said.
Buzbee asked Richardson to dismiss the case "so that Gov. Perry can get on about his business."
Perry has continued to criss-cross the country and travel abroad in anticipation of a second bid for the White House in 2016. His term as Texas' longest-serving governor ends in January.
Perry said his felony charges and courtroom appearances will not hamper his presidential aspirations or his work as governor because he is able "to multitask pretty good."
"In the last six months we've had multiple issues of pretty major size and scope to deal with, whether it's securing the border of Texas and Mexico with our law enforcement and National Guard troops or whether it's dealing with the issue of Ebola," Perry said.
"So I think we've handled all those rather well, as well as this legal proceeding. I don't have any questions about being able to multitask or getting things done."
Richardson did not set a date for the next hearing.
McCrum is expected to file a state response by Friday on a defense motion to quash and a writ of habeas corpus.
Perry's day in court came on his 32nd wedding anniversary with Texas' First Lady, Anita, Perry tweeted shortly before the 10 a.m. hearing.
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