Governor Rick Perry: Lawyers Claim Abuse of Power Charges “Unconstitutional”

Lawyers for Texas Governor Rick Perry are seeking to have the abuse of power charges filed against him thrown out, saying it would be an unconstitutional prosecution.

The motion to dismiss the charges, claiming that a trial would set a dangerous precedent for future governors, was part of the first legal filing in the case. The New York Times calls the filing “a public relations offensive waged by Mr. Perry and his defense team to cast the two-count indictment as an outrageous political assault.”

Perry faces charges of abuse of official capacity, a first-degree felony, and coercion of a public official, a third-degree felony. The Inquisitr reported earlier in August that the charges stem from the Governor’s alleged attempt to force the resignation of Travis County’s district attorney Rosemary Lehmberg after she was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol in April of last year.

He is accused of threatening to veto funding to the attorney general’s office anti-corruption unit unless Lehmberg resigned. Perry later made good on the threat with a veto blocking $75 million in state money for the office. The governor became the target of an ethics investigation after vetoing the funding, with critics claiming he wanted to control the anti-corruption unit’s actions and that he has allowed cronyism in his administration.

Perry’s attorneys say it is unjust to prosecute a governor over a political dispute by trying to criminalize a veto. “Subjecting any sitting governor to a criminal prosecution and injecting the judiciary into a political dispute would be an unprecedented assault on this cherished separation of powers and would impose an intolerable and incalculable chilling effect on the free exercise of legitimate constitutional power by future governors,” said Perry’s legal team via Travis County court claims.

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The 60-page filing calls the indictment “fatally defective” and asks Judge Bert Richardson to “bar the prosecution” by dismissing the charges. It also states that the governor’s veto power is a “key limitation on legislative power” and “an integral component” in keeping balance between the branches of government.

Perry, a possible Republican candidate in the 2016 presidential race, needs to avoid going to trial if at all possible according to Cal Jillison. Jillison is a political science professor at Dallas Southern Methodist University.

“Unless his (Perry’s) lawyers can get the indictment quashed, get the indictment thrown out by a judge before the trial begins, the trial will kill him as a candidate for the Republican nomination in 2016,” Jillison said to Reuters.

Image courtesy of The New York Post