AUSTIN (CN) – Calling it a “criminalization of politics,” former Governor Rick Perry on Wednesday vowed to continue fighting, the day after a judge refused to toss out his two-count felony indictment.
“I am proud to stand for the rule of law,” Perry said, fresh off a swing of the early primary states of South Carolina and Iowa. “And I know that my actions were right when faced with a public official whose illegal, unethical, embarrassing and inappropriate behavior has completely tarnished her office and lost the confidence of the taxpayers that she served.”
Perry said again that he would make the same veto that slashed funding from Travis County District Attorney Mary Lehmberg’s ethics investigation unit if she did not resign after a drunken-driving arrest.
“Make no mistake: This prosecution sets a dangerous precedent in our country and it directly targets the authority of every governor’s office in the nation,” Perry told reporters at an Austin news conference.
Visiting Judge Bert Richardson, of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, refused to throw out the felony abuse of power and coercion charges against the former governor. The judge on Tuesday denied Perry’s motion to quash and his pretrial application for writ of habeas corpus that challenged the constitutionality of the charges.
Perry’s legal team immediately filed notice that they will appeal to the Austin-based, all-Republican, Third Court of Appeals. Attorney David Botsford said the expedited appeal would be filed within 24 hours.
“We anticipate due to the gravity of the constitutionality issues involved that the court will move swiftly and expeditiously,” Botsford said.
He said attorneys will file additional paperwork with Judge Richardson to try to get him to resolve other issues during the appeal.
A Travis County grand jury indicted Perry on two felony counts: abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public servant.
When Lehmberg, a Democrat, refused to resign, Perry issued a line-item veto that effectively stripped her office’s Public Integrity Unit of more than $7 million that had been earmarked by the Legislature during the 2013 session.
Houston attorney Tony Buzbee said Richardson’s ruling rightly identified major problems with both counts of the indictment, including that count one, related to the official abuse of power, “is vague and unspecific.”
“We’re very encouraged by that; we think it’s just another step in the process,” Buzbee said.
Botsford said he expects the Third Court of Appeals to issue an opinion on the constitutionality issues within 30 to 60 days.
Jerry Polinard, a political science professor at the University of Texas-Pan American, said Tuesday’s ruling did not produce any good news for Perry.
“From a political standpoint, from a legal standpoint, it was just a bad day for Perry,” Polinard said.
“Obviously, you would think that the Republican Party doesn’t want to nominate somebody who may be subsequently convicted in a trial just as the campaign season is heating up,” he said. “I don’t see any silver lining in this cloud; there’s absolutely no good news for Rick Perry.”
Polinard said Perry may have a hard time persuading donors outside of Texas that he’s still viable as he crisscrosses early primary states seeking to round up big money.
“It’s just hard to say that it’s a partisan attack on Perry when the decision-maker is a Republican and when the prosecutor is a Republican, and that’s a really difficult sell outside of the state, Polinard said. “And not particularly persuasive inside the state, but I think virtually impossible outside the state.”
Perry said he would not let the criminal case interfere with his decision to seek the Republican nomination for president.
“We’re going to continue on,” Perry said. “Americans are looking for a leader that’s not afraid to stand, up not be intimidated. Standing up for the rule of law and standing up the United States Constitution is a good thing and the people across this country are very supportive of that.”
Perry has all but announced his decision to run in the crowded 2016 field of Republican contenders. He said he would make an announcement in May or June.
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