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Update Monday, Aug. 18 at 6:00 p.m.
An arraignment date for Gov. Rick Perry has been set for Friday, Aug. 29, at 9 a.m. in Austin. While he doesn’t have to appear in court himself, his lawyers do, according to reports from Austin.
Gerald Reamey, a law professor at St. Mary’s University, said after arraignment and processing, the case moves to the pre-trial period, during which each side can file motions. He said the case could last up to two years.
“I would be very surprised if it came to trial in less than a year,” he said. “Delay more often works in favor of an accused person than not.”
Our original post continues:
Rick Perry's lawyers, a team of national attorneys led by the Houston-based Tony Buzbee, came out swinging Monday against the felony charges brought against him over the weekend, reiterating that they are purely political and insisting he acted lawfully in vetoing funding for the Public Integrity Unit last year.
"These charges are a nasty attack not only on the rule of law, but on the constitution of the United States and the State of Texas," said Buzbee.
Texas' longest-serving governor was indicted Friday on two felony counts of abuse of power and coercion of a public servant. Perry is being investigated for threatening to veto funding for the Public Integrity Unit responsible for prosecuting, among other things, government corruption. The PIU's leader, Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, was arrested for drunk driving last year. After Lehmberg pleaded guilty and served jail time, Perry threatened to veto, and ultimately did veto, $7.5 million state funding for the PIU if she didn't resign.
No arrest warrant will be issued for Perry, the Associated Press reported today. Instead, special prosecutor and lauded San Antonio-based lawyer Mike McCrum agreed to a summons requiring Perry to appear in court sometime this week. Perry's lawyers said they don't know when he'll appear.
Gerald Reamey, law professor at St. Mary's University, said a summons rather than an arrest warrant isn't out of the ordinary for a case like this.
"He's not going to flee the jurisdiction," Reamey told the Current. "For his convenience and to make this as easy on everybody as possible, you’d give him the opportunity to surrender himself."
From there, the governor will likely post bail and would be released on his own recognizance, said Reamey, who specializes in criminal law and procedure at St. Mary's. Reamey said it could be up to two years before the case heads to trial.
Since Friday, Perry and his legal team have repeatedly stood behind the governor's right to veto a line of the state budget, which is granted to him by the Texas Constitution. It's worth pointing out, though, that the veto isn't what's being questioned in the case. It's the threat itself.
"The statutes under which he’s charged are focused more on why he did this. What motivated the veto? It’s not that he doesn’t have the right to veto," Reamey said. "You can do it for improper purposes and arguably that might violate one of the criminal statutes."
Monday afternoon Perry's lawyers said that when Perry publicly addressed his reasons for vetoing the funding last year he was merely exercising "transparency in government."
Unsurprisingly, the indictment is being framed by Perry and his lawyers as a political witch hunt led by McCrum. In his statement Saturday, Perry called it a "farce" and "outrageous that some would use partisan political theatrics to rip away at the very fabric of our state's constitution."
Reamey, who has known McCrum for more than 30 years, finds that narrative hard to swallow.
"I've rarely known anyone who had so carefully and deliberately tried to ensure that he was not overtly political," Reamey said.
Here's just one example: McCrum received bipartisan support from Democratic Rep. Lloyd Doggett of Austin and Republican U.S. Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn a few years ago when he was in the running to be the U.S. attorney in the San Antonio-based Western District of Texas.
"He comes from a pretty conservative background, being a police officer in Arlington and Dallas, being a federal prosecutor for a long time," Reamey said. "It'd be very difficult I think to paint a picture of Mike McCrum as being politically partisan in this case."
Difficult or not, the attempts to do so won't likely go away. And politics aside, only the evidence will tell if the indictment holds water.
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