Analyst: Indictment could knock Gov. Perry off course

HOUSTON – A grand jury indicted Texas Gov. Rick Perry Friday on two felony counts: abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public servant.

This all stems from his handling of events last year, when the Travis County District Attorney refused to step down following a DWI conviction.

Perry has had a good run lately, gaining points with his Republican base and getting national attention for his efforts to secure the border.

But KHOU political analyst Bob Stein says this new indictment could knock Perry off course.

"It surely doesn't help," said Stein. "It takes money out of his own pocket, it takes time and investigation on his part to make certain there isn't anything there and it raises the question who is going to come after him over this."

A grand jury indicted Perry on two felony counts, basically alleging he abused his power, when he threatened to veto funding for the state's public integrity unit, unless the unit's head, Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, a Democrat, stepped down.

He made the threat after Lehmberg pleaded guilty to drunk driving last year. She served 21 days in jail, but did not resign. So Perry went ahead with the budget veto of more than $7 million.

"He intentionally or knowingly misused those monies," said Special Prosecutor Michael McCrum.

McCrum says the fact that Perry may be positioning himself for a 2016 presidential run did not affect the case.

"That didn't go into my consideration whatsoever," said McCrum. "I looked at the law, I looked at the facts and presented that to the grand jury."

But Stein says the indictment presents plenty of political fodder.

"His biggest concern now is not Democrats in the public integrity unit, it will be other Republicans running for the presidential nomination."

Now he questions what they could uncover about what the public integrity unit was investigating before the veto.

"I suspect there might be something else," said Stein.

Perry is the first sitting Texas governor indicted since 1917. He faces anywhere from two to 99 years in prison, if convicted on the most serious charge.

Perry's attorney said Friday he acted within the law and would aggressively fight the charges.


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