Grand jury indicts Texas Gov. Rick Perry

AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas Gov. Rick Perry was indicted by a grand jury Friday following an investigation into whether the governor abused his power by vetoing state funds for the Travis County District Attorney's Office last year.

Perry vetoed state funds for the office after District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg refused to resign following a DWI conviction.

After the veto, Perry said he could not give money to Lehmberg's office because she had lost the public's confidence after her arrest in April 2013. Lehmberg pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 45 days in jail. She served 21 days.

Upon his indictment, Perry must turn himself in to the Travis County Jail, where he will be booked, fingerprinted and have his mug shot taken. A pre-trial hearing will be arranged within the next few weeks.

Defense attorneys could file a motion to have the indictment thrown out, which would delay a trial, or seek to have a trial within the next 90 days.

Perry can continue to serve as governor while under indictment. He can also continue as governor if convicted, but he could be stripped of office through a separate legislative removal process.

Perry could be charged with coercion of a public servant, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine, abuse of official capacity, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine, and bribery, punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Last year, Lehmberg was allowed to keep her job after a civil trial based on a lawsuit filed by an Austin lawyer citing a Texas constitutional code that states an elected official can be removed for intoxication on or off duty.

A complaint by watchdog group Texas for Justice alleged Perry violated state laws concerning bribery, coercion and abuse of authority.

The veto meant that the Public Integrity Unit, which investigates ethics complaints against politicians statewide and is housed in Lehmberg's office, was left without a $7.5 million two-year allocation. Travis County commissioners later agreed to partially fund the operation, but two employees lost their jobs.

A Perry spokesman said that the governor broke no laws and exercised his constitutional veto authority through line-item vetoes in the budget.

A Texas judge called for special prosecutor Michael McCrum to look into Perry's actions last year. A grand jury spent four months looking at evidence in the case and hearing testimony from members of the governor's staff, all of whom testified before the grand jury.


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