AUSTIN (KXAN) — Gov. Rick Perry says he is innocent, and he’s promising to fight his charges in court. Wednesday morning he officially made his plea: not guilty. The governor took his mug shot after turning himself in Tuesday evening at the Travis County Jail, going through the booking process as a number of journalists recorded the historical event.
A grand jury indicted him on two felony charges last week, but Perry says the actions he took were legal and proper. He says he would veto funding for the Public Integrity Unit again and that what he did was well within his gubernatorial right.
“I am going to fight this injustice with every fiber of my being, and we will prevail,” said Perry during Tuesday’s trip to the courthouse.
The indictment alleges Perry abused his power by threatening Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg with a veto for Public Integrity Unit funding. That unit – which is run out of Lehmberg’s office – is in charge of prosecuting insurance fraud, motor fuels tax fraud and government corruption. That meant 425 cases in 2013. The charges against Perry claim the he was trying to force out Lehmberg following her DWI guilty plea in April 2013.
Meanwhile, Perry’s court date has been set for 9 a.m. Friday, but we won’t see him because he has waived his right to an arraignment — which is a formal reading of the charges in court. Instead, Perry will be in New Hampshire.
For the first time, we are hearing from members of the grand jury who decided Perry did, indeed, break the law. Four jurors say they avoided political considerations during the process. One of the jurors, Scott Hilman, says Perry’s dismissive comments are “disrespectful.” Hillman says the grand jury attended eight sessions over the course of five months and that the jurors were simply swayed by facts.
So what’s next for Perry?
He’s actually going to be traveling over the next few days. Thursday, Perry is scheduled to talk about border security and immigration at the Heritage Foundation in Washington. He then goes to New Hampshire on Friday and Saturday. That’s the first primary state, important for his possible 2016 presidential aspirations. Next week, he’s scheduled to go to South Carolina — the first southern primary state in the nation.