Appeals Court Drops Criminal Charge Against Perry in DA Case

The third court of appeals drops one of two criminal charges against Former Governor Rick Perry in the 2014 Lehmberg case.

By David BrownJuly 27, 2015 9:42 am

Former Texas Governor Rick Perry is trying to get his presidential campaign into lift-off mode. Meanwhile, the saga of a 2014 criminal case  against him continues. He’s been dogged by ongoing allegations of abuse of official power. Friday morning an appeals court dropped one of the two charges against him. Peggy Fikac with the San Antonio Express-News has been covering the case.

Last year, Perry was accused of abusing his veto power by trying to force out democratic Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg in the wake of her highly publicized drunken driving arrest.

In 2013, Perry had sent Lehmberg a warning that he would veto any state funding for the Public Integrity Unit unless Lehmberg resigned her position. The PIU, which investigates corruption, insurance and tax fraud and enforces statewide government and election code, is traditionally overseen by the Travis County DA.

The threat came after a video began circulating of Lehmberg’s arrest. Fikac says it was “pretty messy and unpleasant to look at.”

Fikac says this isn’t the end of the case, however. “The third court of appeals agreed with Governor Perry’s legal team that one of the statutes — coercion of a public servant — was unconstitutional, violated his first amendment rights of free speech or any public officials first amendment rights.”

Perry still faces the second felony count of abuse of official capacity. But his high-profile lawyer, Tony Buzbee, is planning on going to the state’s highest criminal court of appeals. Fikac quotes Buzbee: “He says ‘One down, one to go,’ he says. ‘This thing is hanging by a thread and in my view is very near to being over.’”
Hear more of this interview, and whether this ruling affects freedom of speech for all public officials, only on the Texas Standard.