On August 15, 2014 a Travis County Grand Jury indicted Perry for what prosecutors allege was an abuse of his veto authority as the Texas governor. The veto is an executive power held by a governor or president to decline to approve laws passed by the legislature, which is generally protected as a discretionary choice. Prosecutors were able to present enough evidence to a grand jury in this case to call Perry’s veto decision into question.
A key element in these charges seem to stem from Perry’s threat to use the veto to coerce former Travis county District Attorney, Rosemary Lehberg, to resign after she was arrested for DWI in 2013. Lehberg’s DWI charge involved several shameful circumstances, including an extremely high alcohol level, and embarrassing behavior that was caught on video. Lehmberg did plead guilty to Driving While Intoxicated and chose not to run for office again.
A key detail to Perry’s threat was that Lehmberg resign from her office before the citizens of Travis county could elect another District Attorney. This would have empowered Perry to place an interim DA of his choosing in Travis county to hold the office until the next election. Travis county historically votes Democratic. The likely scenario would have involved Perry appointing a Republican into the office in a county where Republicans have a difficult time winning elections.
There are other details about the veto and the history of the Public Integrity Office that will play an important role in an analysis of the propriety of the questionable veto. The office that Perry declined to approve funding for is a Public Integrity unit. A couple of years prior, this unit prosecuted Tom Delay, a Republic ally of Perry’s.
Perry has an aggressive team of defense lawyers at his side and plans to aggressively defend the two felony charges.