In Court Filing, Perry Calls For Tossing Charges as Unconstitutional

DALLAS (The Dallas Morning News/MCT) -

Gov. Rick Perry’s lawyers on Monday filed court papers that call charges against the governor fatally defective and urge their immediate dismissal.

The 60-page brief attacks the two felony charges of abuse of office and coercion of a public official against Perry.

“Continued prosecution of Gov. Perry on the current indictment is unprecedented, insupportable and simply impermissible,” the brief states.

Special prosecutor Michael McCrum will have an opportunity to respond to the challenge, and the judge will rule in a preliminary hearing if the charges stand.

McCrum already has said that he is confident that the charges are supportable and will go forward.

Perry is charged with attempting to coerce Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg into quitting her post by threatening to veto $7.5 million for her office.

He has said her April 2013 drunken driving conviction and actions led him to lose confidence in her leadership.

The indictment indicates that Perry violated the law by linking money to attempting to force Lehmberg into taking an action.

In the brief, Perry’s attorneys strike at least three major themes: the definition of coercion is so broad that no one could know in advance that they are violating a statute; that political disputes are widely protected and should not involve judicial intrusion, and that Perry had a legal right to do everything of which he is accused.

The lawyers say the governor was within his free speech rights to assail Lehmberg and call on her to quit.

“Core political speech, such as the veto and alleged veto threat at issue in this case, lies at the very heart of First Amendment protection,” the brief states.

The lawyers argued that such horse-trading is common in the Legislature and to label it coercion would criminalize many legislative actions.