HOUSTON (AP/KXAN) — Four grand jurors have defended their indictment of Texas Gov. Rick Perry on abuse of power charges, saying their decision was not politically motivated.
The jurors told the Houston Chronicle that the indictment is based on the facts of the case and the law.
Juror Scott Hillman said Perry’s dismissive comments following his indictment Friday are “disrespectful,” pointing out that the jury attended eight sessions over the course of five months.
“I see him laugh at these charges, and I think, ‘He’s laughing at the process, and he’s laughing at the grand jurors,’” Hillman said. “We took our role very, very seriously.”
County records indicate five of the 12 Travis County residents who served on the grand jury have voted in Democratic Party primaries in the last 20 years and one has voted in both Democratic and Republican primaries. Three have not voted at all.
KXAN News tried to reach out to members of the grand jury. They’re not allowed to talk about specifically what happened in front of the grand jury. However, KXAN wanted a better idea of the makeup of the grand jury and the member’s reaction to the attention the case is getting now.
No one wanted to speak on camera. However, reporter Kevin Schwaller spoke with a woman named Rhoda Chalmers, one of the names on the grand jury list. Chalmers did not confirm she was a part of the grand jury. Still — Chalmers pointed KXAN News to Facebook.
On a page with a matching picture and a shortened version of her name was a picture that some Facebook users where criticizing. The picture was posted June 28. It shows a woman, who appears to be Rhoda, wearing a badge that matches the one also pictured on the site. The badge has the words “Texas Democrats State Convention” and “Delegate”. It also has the name “Rho” on it.
Rhoda specifically pointed us to a Facebook page with her picture and this quote:
“I encourage everyone to get involved and serve on a jury. Grand Jury duty is probably the most interesting. Your job is not to decide guilt. Instead you try to determine if there is reason to believe a crime MIGHT have been committed. The experience will give you a chance to really learn about local, county and state law.”
Perry faces a two-count criminal indictment alleging he abused power when he vetoed money going to a Travis County prosecutors’ unit. An abuse of official capacity count is a first-degree felony punishable by five to 99 years in prison. The count of coercion of a public servant is a third-degree felony carrying a punishment of two to 10 years in prison.
Perry said he vetoed the money after Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg refused to resign following her arrest for drunken driving. He said Lehmberg has lost the public’s confidence.
Perry, his team of lawyers and his supporters have dismissed the indictment as partisan politics. He called it a “farce” in a Saturday news conference and said it’s the product of an overzealous prosecutor in a liberal part of the state.
Juror Janna Bessin called Perry’s criticisms “unfair.”
“It’s too bad,” she said, “but I guess that his side’s job — to really spin it.”
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