Austin, Texas’s capital, is the Berkeley of that state, decidedly blue in a red sea. Travis County, where Austin is located, elects their county attorney who in turn oversees criminal cases in Austin. They have a special prosecutorial agency that prosecutes corruption cases for all of Texas, because it is the capital. Following me still? The liberal city of Austin has legal obligations and power to prosecute crooked politicians, who oddly seem to be Republicans. Go figure.
This has gotten under the chaps of the Republicans in power for years. They cannot do anything about it. The Republican state-wide candidates often run on a platform of “reforming” the watch dog prosecutorial abilities of Travis, but generally fail. Travis county, however, has successfully prosecuted Tom Delay, and is currently investigating Republican Candidate for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. Keep that thought in mind, it is important.
Rosemary Lehmberg is the (Democratic) elected (and not answerable to Rick Perry) Travis County District Attorney. She was arrested for DUI (though oddly, she was not driving at the time), pleaded guilty and did some jail time. For the reasons stated above, Rick Perry wanted her to resign, the DUI gave him cover to ask for her resignation. Her replacement for the rest of her term would be appointed, and presumably investigations into corrupt politicians (Republicans) would stop, and maybe Ken Paxton would be elected.
There’s no way to prove this, of course, otherwise this indictment might also include obstruction of justice or some variation thereof. Can you indict for a future crime yet to be committed? No. But it could be shown as motive for what he was doing. Anyway, this is probably the reason behind the official abuse charge: he cannot ask for the resignation of a duly elected official nor demand it.
So Lehmberg did not resign her office, nor was she required to. Rick Perry then upped the ante: resign or he would line-item veto the county of Travis’ budget to prosecute corruption cases; that is certainly coercion: do what I want or your department is defunded from prosecuting me and my buddies. And then he proceeded to do just that, and being not the sharpest thorn on that yellow rose, he bragged about it very publicly. Perry is rumored to have gone so far as to offer her a state-wide job if she would resign her county job, and, you know, let him pick her replacement.
So that is what the Grand Jury investigated: abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public servant, which are felonies and if convicted and would hold a maximum prison sentence of 109 years. It isn’t going to happen, or very unlikely anyway. I mean Tom Delay was prosecuted in 2006 and he’s now close to a decade into the process of fighting it, much of the original charges having been overturned by a Republican, sympathetic judge.
In the meanwhile, it is pretty funny that Wingnuts all over the place are trying to defend Perry with video of Lehmberg’s drunken antics. It clearly was not her finest hour, but it is also not the issue at hand. Her drunken escapades was the opportunity that motivated Perry. So Texas politics, as usual.
UPDATE: I forgot that I wrote about this before, and it is actually a funny story.