Rick Perry Fails in Second Bid to Dismiss Abuse-of-Power Case

Former Texas Governor Rick Perry has again failed to persuade the presiding judge to dismiss the abuse-of-power charges against him.  Perry stepped down from office on January 20 after finishing his third full term as governor, but the corruption case still dogs him.  Charges were filed last year after Perry threatened to veto funding for the Travis County Public Integrity unit unless the County District Attorney, a Democrat, resigned.

District Judge Bert Richardson turned down Perry’s request to dismiss the case, made this time on constitutional grounds.  Perry’s lawyers had argued that the “Texas constitution imposes no limits on the governor’s right and duty to veto; he exercises unbounded discretion in exercising his veto power, subject only to the Legislature’s right to override that veto.”

Article 4, Section 14 of the Texas Constitution indeed imposes no implied or overt restrictions on a governor’s ability to veto.  Recognizing this, the judge remarked that Perry’s claim is “compelling and may be relevant at a later time.”  Nevertheless, the judge apparently viewed the argument as premature.  Section 36.03 of the Texas Penal Code explicitly limits the exercise of “official power” by a public servant.    Under that statute, a person commits an offense if by means of coercion if he:

influences or attempts to influence a public servant in a specific exercise of his official power or a specific performance of his official duty or influences or attempts to influence a public servant to violate the public servant’s known legal duty.

As I have previously observed, it does seem like a stretch to claim that Perry’s threat to veto funding was attempting to influence the exercise of official power by the County DA – since her resignation is not obviously the exercise of official power.   But the judge may have viewed this as a factual issue for the jury to decide in the future.

Perry is doing everything he can to put this case behind him, since he is eying another run at the White House and primary season is approaching.

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