AUSTIN (CN) - The criminal corruption case against Gov. Rick Perry inched forward Monday during a status hearing where attorneys wrangled over a string of documents filed by the Perry's defense team.
Despite objections from state prosecutors, Visiting Judge Bert Richardson, of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, excused Perry from the hearing, as the governor travels in Europe on a longstanding state business trip.
"There are a variety of motions that can't be resolved without the defendant being present," Richardson said, in refusing to rule on any motions without Perry.
Since the Aug. 15 felony indictment, Perry's attorneys have peppered the court with paperwork, including two motions to dismiss and a Friday request to order Special Prosecutor Michael McCrum to release transcripts of grand jury testimony.
Perry's second motion to quash and dismiss the indictment hinges on claims that Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg did not file the necessary documents to disqualify herself from the case, or to appoint McCrum as special prosecutor.
In an Oct. 3 filing, Perry's attorney David Botsford said McCrum is acting illegally "because the basic procedural requirements have apparently been overlooked."
Perry's legal team claims McCrum was not properly appointed and failed to file paperwork showing he took an oath of office.
But Judge Richardson said it was clear to him that "at least most of them [the legal documents] exist," though the documents may have been placed "in the wrong file." Richardson said an evidentiary hearing probably would be necessary to resolve the issue.
But Botsford said: "If there are documents that exist, we haven't seen them."
Richardson set the next court date for 10 a.m. on Oct. 31. He said he does not see "how we can move forward without resolving this."
He said he will take up the issue of whether the court can order the state to release a transcript of the grand jury testimony and on whether McCrum was properly sworn in.
Perry's attorney Anthony Buzbee said Perry will be in the courtroom for that hearing.
The Republican governor was indicted by a Travis County grand jury in August on two felony counts: abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public servant, after he followed through on threats to pull funding from the ethics investigation unit that Lehmberg's office controls 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, stripping her office's Public Integrity Unit of more than $7 million that had been earmarked by state lawmakers.
Perry's lawyers call the indictment unconstitutional and a violation of his free speech.
McCrum has yet to file a response from the state but said he is continuing to follow the court-outlined schedule. On Sept. 30, David M. Gonzalez was appointed to assist McCrum with prosecuting the case.
"We're still working on it judge and we anticipate that the responses will be filed with the courts outline," McCrum said.
He said he expects to file the state's response before Nov. 7.
Outside the courtroom, McCrum said he was confident the charges against the governor will stick and insisted he is eligible to serve as special prosecutor.
Perry has called the case against him "a political act" and vowed to fight the indictment. He is not running for re-election in Texas but is considering another presidential run in 2016.
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