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Grand jury indicts governor on counts

AUSTIN — A Travis County grand jury on Aug. 15 indicted Gov. Rick Perry on two felony counts: abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public servant.

Count I alleges Perry, on or about June 14, 2013, intended to harm Rosemary Lehmberg, Travis County district attorney and chief of the state’s Public Integrity Unit, by intentionally or knowingly misusing public property in withholding funding approved by the Texas Legislature for the operation of the Public Integrity Unit.

Count II alleges Perry by means of coercion and in his official capacity as a public servant threatened to veto legislation funding the Public Integrity Unit unless Lehmberg resigned as district attorney.

Lehmberg was arrested for drunken driving in April 2013. She served a short jail sentence, publicly apologized, underwent counseling and returned to her elected post as district attorney and chief of the Public Integrity Unit, a division of the district attorney’s office that investigates and prosecutes criminal activity involving state government and state government officials.

Lehmberg refused to resign. Perry reacted with a line-item veto of the funding approved for the Public Integrity Unit ($7.5 million) in the state’s 2014-2015 general appropriations bill, SB 1. Perry explained the veto this way: “Despite the otherwise good work the Public Integrity Unit’s employees, I cannot in good conscience support continued State funding for an office with statewide jurisdiction at a time when the person charged with ultimate responsibility of that unit has lost the public’s confidence . This unit is in no other way held accountable to state taxpayers, except through the State budgetary process. I therefore object to and disapprove of this appropriation.”

Mary Anne Wiley, general counsel for Perry, issued a statement saying, “The veto in question was made in accordance with the veto authority afforded to every governor under the Texas Constitution. We will continue to aggressively defend the governor’s lawful and constitutional action, and believe we will ultimately prevail.”

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