Gov. Perry booked on felony charges

Mary Huber

Gov. Rick Perry was booked on felony charges of abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public servant at the Travis County Justice Complex on Tuesday.

The charges are related to Perry’s attempts to force the resignation of Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg after her April 2013 arrest for drunken driving. Perry was indicted by a Travis County grand jury on the two felony charges.

“I’m going to enter this courthouse with my head held high, knowing the actions I took were not only lawful and legal, but right,” Perry said outside the complex Tuesday afternoon. “I’m going to fight this injustice with every fiber of my being.”

After he was fingerprinted and photographed, Perry thanked the sheriff’s deputies for their professionalism. He said he would “prevail,” as his supporters cheered and reporters crowded the entrance to the complex.

Perry's arraignment is scheduled for Friday morning. He is not required to be present in court.

“This indictment is fundamentally a political act that seeks to achieve at the courthouse what could not be achieved at the ballot box,” Perry said. “It is a chilling restraint on the right of free speech.”

Perry vetoed legislation in June 2013 issuing $7.5 million in state funds to the district attorney’s public integrity unit, which prosecutes cases of fraud and government corruption.  He threatened to take such action against Lehmberg when she refused to step down.

At the time, Perry justified the veto by stating that Lehmberg had “lost the public’s confidence.”

RickPAC, Perry's super PAC, released a video on its website Monday documenting Lehmberg’s behavior at the time of her arrest, including her field sobriety test and subsequent videos of her being restrained by officers at the Travis County jail.

“Smearing Rosemary Lehmberg and complaining the indictment was political does not answer the charges of his indictment,” the Travis County Democratic Party said in a statement released Monday.

Perry’s attorneys include Ben Ginsberg, who represented George W. Bush during the 2000 Florida recount, former Texas Supreme Court Justice Tom Phillips, Washington D.C. lawyer Bobby Burchfield, local Austin defense attorney David Botsford, and Houston trial lawyer Tony Buzbee.

The team, lead by Buzbee, spoke in defense of the governor in a press conference Monday and cited his right to free speech and right to veto legislation.

“The charges leveled against the governor are a really nasty attack, not only on the rule of law but also on the Constitution of the United States and the state of Texas,” Buzbee said.

Perry, who has served as governor since 2000, decided not to seek reelection and will leave the position when his term ends in January. Perry unsuccessfully ran for president in 2012. It is widely speculated he is considering another run for the 2016 election.

The felony counts of abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public servant carry penalties of five to 99 years and two to 10 years, respectively.