Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry was cleared of wrongdoing by the state’s highest criminal court Wednesday. The charge related to a veto that he issued in 2013.
“The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals dismissed the abuse-of-power charge, which was filed after Perry threatened — and then carried out — a veto of state funding for a group of public corruption prosecutors after the Democratic head of the unit refused to resign,” the Associated Press reported.
“The constitution does not purport to impose any restriction on the veto power based on the reason for the veto, and it does not purport to allow any other substantive limitations to be placed on the use of a veto,” said the 6-2 opinion by presiding Judge Sharon Keller.
Perry was indicted by a Travis County jury in August of 2014 after he vetoed funding for some of the county’s prosecutors in an attempt to force District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg from office. Lehmberg was arrested in 2013 for drunk driving with a blood alcohol level of .239.
“Daschcam and police station videos, which went viral shortly after her arrest, showed Lehmberg lashing out at police and threatening to use her power as district attorney to punish them for arresting her. Police were eventually forced to restrain her and fit her with a Hannibal Lecter-style face mask,” the Federalist reported.
Perry then vetoed $7.5 million in state funding for the PAO. “The person charged with ultimate responsibility of that unit has lost the public’s confidence,” the then-governor said.
After being indicted for his threat and then veto of PAO funding, Perry dismissed the charges brought against him in Travis County (which encompasses liberal Austin) as a “political witch hunt.”
The Texas Criminal Court of Appeals found the case against Perry did not pass legal muster. “The governor’s power to exercise a veto may not be circumscribed by the Legislature, by the courts, or by district attorneys,” Judge Keller wrote in her opinion. “When the only act that is being prosecuted is a veto, then the prosecution itself violates separation of powers.”
Tony Buzbee, Perry’s lead lawyer, was pleased with the ruling.
“It was a long time coming. This case should have never be brought, and I’m glad the court put its foot down and ended it,” Buzbee said at Statesman.com. “It is troubling when a non-elected ‘special prosecutor’ can obtain an indictment and then pursue it in front of the very judge that appointed him. I said all along this case was foolishness and would be dismissed.”
h/t: Red State