Perry indictment debate misses the heart of the coercive matter

Noah M. Horwitz

At the risk of sounding like a cliche of the political novice, I do not find a whole lot of sense in either of the political angles presented to this paper last Friday on the topic of Gov. Rick Perry’s recent indictment. From the Democratic perspective, it appears that Perry is at the center of some type of grand conspiracy, nefariously scheming to silence a righteous prosecutor who was closing in on the hotbed of felonious lawbreaking going on at CPRIT. From the Republican perspective, it appears that Perry is a wondrous moral crusader, one who put his neck on the line to stand up against a drunk driver in the DA’s office. In reality, of course, it is not quite as exciting.

First, the notion that the investigation of CPRIT — the embattled cancer research institute long investigated for impropriety — is connected with the veto and threat in question is just completely untrue. A recent affidavit released to the public by Perry’s legal team shows that the Travis County DA’s office was not targeting Perry in its CPRIT investigation in any way.

Similarly, this indictment is not the work of a political hit-man. The entire Travis County DA’s office recused themselves from proceedings, and the brunt of the investigation was undertaken by Michael McCrum, a special prosecutor who is definitely not a Democrat. McCrum himself was first appointed to this case by Judge Bert Richardson, who is actually the Republican nominee for a seat on the Court of Criminal Appeals this year.

At its core, this indictment is about coercion. Perry threatened Rosemary Lehmberg, the Travis County DA, telling her that he would slash her funding if she did not resign. Yes, Lehmberg is a drunk driver who perhaps should have resigned anyway, but Aesop teaches us a tyrant always finds a pretext for tyranny. What if Perry had demanded UT President Bill Powers’ resignation, or threatened to veto the University’s appropriation from the state? He could have surely used the dubious allegations raised by Regent Wallace Hall. 

But the most important part of all this is that it is merely an indictment. I, for one, zealously look forward to a trial. But remember, UDems, this means he’s innocent until proven guilty. Innocent people don’t typically resign. 

Horwitz is a government junior from Houston.