Monday August 18,2014 : ANTI-ONLINE GAMBLING U.S. GOVERNOR IN GRAND JURY TROUBLE
Texas governor Rick Perry accused of using his veto rights in a coercive manner.
State politics and constitutional law appear to have clashed in Texas, where a grand jury in Austin indicted governor Rick Perry Friday on claims that he abused the powers of his office by carrying out a threat to veto funding for state prosecutors investigating public corruption.
Perry, a vocal Republican anti-online gambling politician said to be interested in making a second US presidential run next year, is the first governor of Texas to be indicted by a grand jury in almost a century, according to Associated Press news agency reports.
The state has tasked a special prosecutor, San Antonio-based Michael McCrum, to investigate the case, and he has reportedly spent the last few months interviewing a wide range of witnesses.
There are allegations that Gov. Perry crossed the line when he publicly promised to use his power of veto to stop funding of around $7.5 million for a special anti-corruption unit headed by Travis County District Attorney and Democrat Rosemary Lehmberg.
The case is complicated by Lehmberg's conviction for drunken driving, and her refusal to resign when called upon to do so by the governor.
Perry's legal advisers have refuted the accusations, saying that the governor acted within his authority and is not guilty of charges of abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public servant.
The first charge is a first-degree felony carrying a punishment of 5 years to 99 years in jail, whilst the second is a third-degree felony punishable by 2 to 10 years imprisonment.
The governor's defence attorney, David L. Botsford, says the grand jury action represents political abuse of the court system and violates the separation of powers outlined in the Texas Constitution.
Perry is the longest serving governor in Texas history and has been in power for fourteen years.
The action group Texans for Public Justice has weighed in on the case, filing an ethics complaint against the governor for his threats to use his veto in order to coerce Lehmberg to resign.
The organisation's spokesman, Craig McDonald, said Friday:
"We're pleased that the grand jury determined that the governor's bullying crossed the line into illegal behaviour. The complaint had merit; serious laws were potentially broken."