TEXAS governor Rick Perry has turned himself into police in Austin and faces certain prosecution and a possible jail term after being indicted by a grand jury on two felony charges of abusing power.
Yesterday, the governor responded to the recent indictment by showing up at police headquarters to be fingerprinted and have his mugshot taken. Last Friday, the governor was indicted by a grand jury in Travis County, a Democratic stronghold in the heavily Republican state, over his veto of funding for a state ethics watchdog that has investigated prominent Texas Republicans.
He has called the indictment politically motivated and pledged to fight the charges as the more serious of the two felony charges carries a prison sentence of five to 99 years. Governor Perry became the target of an ethics probe last year after he vetoed $7.5m in funding for the state public integrity unit run from the Travis County district attorney’s office.
His use of the veto was widely viewed as intended to force the resignation of county district attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, a Democrat, after she had pleaded guilty to drunken driving but remained in office. Democrats have said Governor Perry may have been looking to put an ally in charge of the unit, extending what they say is cronyism in his administration.
However, taking his political opponents on head-on, Governor Perry appeared at police headquarters in Austin yesterday, gesturing with arms aloft and speaking slowly and firmly. He delivered a speech in front of the entrance in which he said he would fight this injustice with every fibre of his being.
Governor Perry added: “I’m here today because I believe in the rule of law and I’m here today because I did the right thing. 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.
“This issue is far bigger than me, it’s about the rule of law, it’s about the constitution which allows not just the governor but every citizen to speak their mind free of political interference or legal intimidation. This indictment is nothing short of an attack on the constitutional powers of the office of governor and there are important fundamental issues at stake and I will not allow this attack on our system of government to stand.”
This indictment has cast a shadow over Governor Perry’s possible bid for the Republican presidential nomination. Political experts have predicted that legal wrangling in the case is likely to stretch into the 2016 election cycle, affecting the governor’s chances of standing in his party’s primaries.
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