It seems like so long ago that Rick Perry was booked at the Travis County Courthouse for two felony charges in August, smirking at the camera during his infamous mugshot. So when does this guy go to trial already?
That all depends on whether his defense team can get his case thrown out, which they have attempted on multiple grounds. Most recently, the defense tried to get the case thrown out on a technicality, saying the special prosecutor wasn’t properly sworn in because of some paperwork issues. But on Tuesday of this week the judge ruled that the prosecutor’s authority was not undermined by procedural irregularities, allowing the trial to go on.
Perry’s legal team is now trying to get the case dismissed on constitutional grounds, saying the indictment violates the governor’s right to free speech, undermines the separation of powers doctrine and relies on overly broad, unconstitutional and vague laws. A group of pro-Perry legal “experts” also published a brief claiming his threat is protected by the First Amendment, which says that if Perry is convicted, “the chilling effect on political discourse could be disastrous.” And even if he merely stands trial, “then the damage has already been done — even if he is ultimately acquitted.” According to the authors, the fact that we are even considering holding Perry accountable will stifle free speech everywhere. There has not yet been a ruling on whether the case should be thrown out on constitutional grounds, which is what needs to be resolved next before Perry can stand trial.
Perry picked up his two felony charges – abuse of official power and coercion of a public servant – because he threatened to veto millions of dollars in appropriations for Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg’s office (the state’s public integrity unit) after she refused to heed his demands that she resign after a DWI conviction. He then followed through on his veto, and while a veto itself is not an abuse of power, threatening an official is.
As of a couple months ago, Rick Perry didn’t even really understand his charges, saying, “I’m not a lawyer, so I don’t really understand the details here.” Nonetheless, he would totally be open to a repeat. “I stand behind my authority and I would do it again,” he said earlier this month. “I stand behind that veto, and I would make that veto again.”
As part of his general approach of not taking the charges seriously, Perry was in Europe for one of his pretrial hearings in September. He also requested blanket permission to skip all of the other pretrial hearings, but the judge denied it. The prosecutor has argued that Perry is giving the impression that “his position is too important to be wasted on the normal court process.” Indeed.
For now, Perry’s approach is to blow off the court proceedings while his legal team tries to get his case dismissed before he ever has to stand trial. But the arguments they’ve offered are probably not strong enough to prevent the case from moving ahead. “The defendant argues he did not break the law. The state alleges he did. This is precisely why the justice system exists: to resolve these types of disputes,” the prosecutor told the judge. “[The defense’s] argument is simply one of many attempts to raise every conceivable issue — even those that are unlikely to succeed.”
So Perry may well find himself flying between court and the 2016 campaign trail over the comings months. But luckily for him, he’s “able to multitask pretty good.”