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Special prosecutor to be appointed in Perry/Lehmberg veto case

Moving forward.

Rosemary Lehmberg

A San Antonio senior state district judge confirmed Thursday that he will name a special prosecutor to investigate possible charges of coercion and abuse of official capacity against Gov. Rick Perry.

Judge Robert “Bert” Richardson said he expected to name someone early next week, at which time “an order will be prepared and filed with the court.”

The investigation stems from the governor’s veto of $3.7 million annual funding of Travis County’s Public Integrity Unit.

Perry acknowledged that he let it be known that if Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, a Democrat, did not resign her office following a DWI conviction, that he would cut off funding for the integrity unity.

Perry, a Republican, would name Lehmberg’s replacement.

Lehmberg did not resign and Perry subsequently vetoed funding for the unit, which prosecutes corruption and public malefeasance. Among other cases, the unit has been investigating the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas — one of Perry’s landmark accomplishments. CPRIT is facing allegations of favoritism and mismanagement of public funding.

After the Austin American-Statesman reported Perry’s challenge to Lehmberg, Texans for Public Justice filed a criminal complaint against Perry. The complaint cited state laws that prohibit public officials from abusing their office in coercing or bribing others.

See here, here, and here for the background, and here for a copy of the complaint. Note that the issue is not the actual veto, but the demand Perry made for Lehmberg to resign under the threat of his veto, that is the basis of the complaint. It’s the “resign or else” statement that the TPJ alleges is coercion. Had Perry simply issued the veto, there’d be no allegation of wrongdoing. It’s certainly open to debate whether Perry’s actions really did rise to the level of lawbreaking – that will be a question for the special prosecutor, and possibly a judge and jury, to decide – but let’s be clear that it was the demand for Lehmberg to resign and not the veto itself that is at issue. Texas Politics, Juanita, and Texpatriate have more.

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