AUSTIN – Gov. Rick Perry, the longest-serving governor in Texas history, turned himself in amid the cheers of supporters at the Travis County Courthouse on Tuesday to face two felony counts of abuse of power.
He was not a contrite defendant.
"I believe in the rule of law," he told the crowd. "We will prevail.,"
Perry, a Republican who is considering a run for president in 2016, has vehemently denounced the charges in televised press conferences and through his legal team. He is expected to make a statement Tuesday.
"Like a true Texan, he's being pushed and he's pushing back," said Mark P. Jones, political scientist at Rice University. "He's making a conscious decision not just to fight this head-on but to utilize the national attention for political gain."
It's the first time in nearly 100 years that a Texas governor has been indicted. The last one was Democrat James Ferguson, who was convicted and removed from office for vetoing funding for the University of Texas after objecting to some faculty members.
Perry's indictment stems from the drunken-driving arrest last year of Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, who was captured on video berating officers following her arrest. She served jail time, underwent counseling and returned to her post.
When she refused Perry's call to resign, the Republican governor vetoed $7.5 million in state funding for the public integrity unit overseen by Lehmberg, a Democrat. A grand jury found sufficient evidence to put Perry on trial on charges that his veto overstepped his legal authority.
The two felony charges carry prison sentences of up to more than 100 years, if convicted.