Criminal case against ex-Gov. Rick Perry dismissed

No more legal troubles for former Governor Rick Perry, at least not for now. 

The criminal case against him has been dropped.

Perry was indicted by a grand jury in August 2014. He faced two felony charges. One was dismissed in July; the other was dismissed on Wednesday.

The longest-serving governor in Texas history is in the clear.

"I've always known that the actions I took were not only lawful and legal, they were right," says former Texas Governor Rick Perry.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals dismissed the second and final charge against former Governor Rick Perry on Wednesday. It was regarding abuse of power.

Ashley Paredez was at former Governor Perry's press conference earlier today.


Rick perry conference

Posted by Ashley Paredez on FOX 7 on Wednesday, February 24, 2016

"They weren't wholly baseless claims or they wouldn't have been able to get the indictment in the first place. For Governor Perry, what it proves is that it was within his power but he was pushing the envelope. That's something that all elected officials have to understand, there are limits to power and really Governor Perry got as close to those limits without crossing the line," says Dr. Brian Smith, St. Edwards, political science professor.

The charge was filed after Perry threatened, and then carried out, a veto of state funding for Public Integrity Unit prosecutors. That was in response to Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg rejecting his calls to resign following her arrest and conviction for drunk driving. At the time, she was also head of the unit. 

"If I had to do it again, I would veto funding for the Public Integrity Unit. I think any governor, Democrat or Republican, would have expected an individual who had jurisdiction over state officials to lead their office with the high standards of ethics, of conduct and personal integrity," says Perry.

Despite Perry's legal problems, he formally announced that he was running for president in early June.
He dropped out of the race in September, blaming the criminal indictment for sluggish fundraising.

"Obviously this indictment, as it would anybody, had a negative effect on our candidacy," says Perry.

So did it entirely ruin his chances?

"If you have an indictment over your head, that trust thing does come into play. I think without it, sure he would have gotten a few more votes but America spoke twice at the presidential level and they didn't see Governor Perry as president Perry," says Smith.

The first felony charge, coercion by a public servant, was dismissed back in July. This means Perry's record is now clean.

"I'm proud to say that today the court upheld the rule of law and the fundamental rights of any person to speak freely without fear of political interference or legal intimidation," says Perry.

The dismissal can be appealed but it would result in a lengthy process. Perry spent more than $2-million for his legal defense. The original charges combined carried a potential sentence of 109 years in prison.

Lt. Governor Dan Patrick released a statement on Perry's dismissed charges.

I am extremely pleased that the unconstitutional criminal charges filed against Governor Rick Perry by a rogue Travis County prosecutor have been dismissed by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

As I pointed out more than a year ago, Gov. Perry is a dedicated public servant who served our state with integrity and in the best interest of Texans.

From the start of this torturous and expensive legal journey it was clear he was within his constitutional authority to veto the funding for the Travis County Public Integrity Office.

This indictment was wrong and should never have been brought. Our legal system should never be used to settle political differences.

Public office holders must have the ability to question the use of tax dollars - especially as they relate to the funding of a mismanaged government entity.

In this case, Governor Perry chose to withhold funding from an elected official and tax supported public agency he deemed was not acting in the best interest of the public.

I support the action he took and today's ruling by Texas' highest criminal court.


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