Texas Governor Rick Perry indicted—but what was his crime?

Rick_Perry_by_Gage_Skidmore_8.jpgAn alarming and shameful path was set into motion in Texas on August 15, 2014.

Governor Rick Perry was indicted under nebulously written statues for “Abuse of Official Capacity” and “Coercion of Public Servant” (indictment attached). The charges carry in total seven to 109 years in prison.

What nefarious acts and conspiracies did the Governor commit to warrant such charges? He threatened to veto $7.5 million in funding for the state Public Integrity Unit unless its D.A. leader who was arrested for driving while intoxicated in 2013 stepped down.

If you’re scratching your head trying to figure out how this seemingly innocuous and reasonable action could warrant imprisonment for over a century, welcome to the new United States, as elucidated by Harvey Silverglate in his book Three Felonies a Day. As Silverglate describes, the history of prosecutorial overreach and discretion in applying statutes is such that the average United States citizen can be said to have unknowingly committed three felonies per day.

Let’s look at the text of the two charges levied against the governor. The first, Abuse of Official Capacity, is defined as the “…intent to obtain a benefit or with intent to harm or defraud another…,” by misuse of “…government property, services, personnel, or any other thing of value belonging to the government…” The second, Coercion of Public Servant, is defined as an attempt to “…influence a public servant in a specific performance of his official duty…”

Whereas the second charge is written far to broadly and is topically unconstitutional and unenforceable, the first charge levied is a joke. Perry was alleged to have intended to harm or defraud by exercising his constitutionally afforded powers via such a reasonable and prudent act of attempting to assure that the Texas Public Integrity Unit offices were not headed up by an individual who knowingly committed a crime which can be viewed as involving moral turpitude.

So ultimately what we have is a series of widely written and interpreted laws that are broadly applied to citizens that allow them to be deprived of freedom. Let that sink in. Texas Governor Rick Perry is in jeopardy of being placed in prison for over a century for reasonably acting in his role of public office. I am personally appalled and disgusted that this is the state of our country.

It’s also noteworthy that the special prosecutor for levying such charges has recently been accused of wrongdoing by Bexar County D.A. This seemingly politically motivated indictment was questioned by such opposing partisans as David Axelrod, Senior Advisor to President Obama, who noted that the “indictment seems pretty sketchy.” This is a political witch hunt, plain and simple.

(As an aside, I have no well informed opinion of Rosemary Lehmberg as an individual, other than the notion that it may not be entirely appropriate for an individual who has been convicted of driving while intoxicated to run a statewide public integrity office. As for Rick Perry, I personally believe Texas Monthly’s Rick Perry Report Card paints a good overall picture of his governorship.)
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