For years, the GOP establishment in Texas meant Rick Perry, the longest-serving governor in Texas history. A two-time presidential candidate, Perry was charged last year with two felony counts of abuse of power and coercion of a government official – charges themselves seen as politically motivated by many fellow Texas Republicans.
Today a decision from the state’s top criminal court has dropped those charges and, with it, the possibility of prison time.
Paul Weber, a Texas-based reporter for the Associated Press, says the charges stem from Perry’s veto of funding for the Public Integrity Unit in the Travis County District Attorney’s office during Legislative session in 2013. Weber says the Travis County DA at the time had pleaded guilty to drunken driving. Perry had said she was unfit for office, threatening to pull funding if she didn’t step down.
“He carried out that veto threat and a criminal complaint soon followed,” Weber says. “A year later he was indicted.”
One charged had been dismissed last summer in a lower court. The remaining charge, abuse of power, was thrown out this morning. Perry has maintained from the start that these charges were politically motivated, but the special prosecutor said he had “stepped outside the bounds” of his office’s powers.
“(Prosecutors argued) he just can’t shake down somebody and get them to do something and threaten them like that,” he says. “In the end, this Republican-majority appeals court agreed with the governor.”
Weber says the court’s ruling was explicit in that the courts “cannot restrict the governor’s ability to veto a piece of legislation.”
Perry maintained that the charges affected his ability to fundraise for his ultimately unsuccessful bid for the White House.
“It certainly cast a pall,” Weber says. “It really did shadow the last few months’ of his legacy…. It really ended on a low note.”
Listen to the full interview in the audio player above.