Gov. Rick Perry plans to fight his indictment on coercion and official oppression charges by arguing that vetoing spending bills is the governor's Constitutional duty, and the indictment violates the separation of powers, Newsradio 1200 WOAI reports.
Perry was indicted on Friday on two felony counts. One, official oppression by a public servant, is a top count felony, punishable by up to 99 years in prison.
"I am outraged and appalled that the grand jury has taken this action, given the governor's constitutional right and duty to veto funding as he deems inappropriate," said David Botsford, the governor's private attorney.
The charges stem from Perry's threat to veto, and eventual veto, of state funding for the Public Integrity Unit of the Travis County District Attorney's Office.
When the District Attorney, Rosemary Lehmberg, was arrested for drunk driving in the spring of 2013, Perry said she was unfit to be in charge of the office that enforces ethics laws for state officials.
Perry said unless Lehmberg resigned, he would veto about $7 million in state money to fund the office.
When Lehmberg refused to resign, Perry in fact did veto the funding.
Several Democrat-leaning groups claimed that Perry's threat to veto the funding amounted to improper coercion of an elected official.
Botsford says that allegation is ridiculous.
"The fact of this case conclude that the governor's veto was lawful, appropriate, and well within the authority of the office of governor," he said. "This action, which violates the separation of power outlined in the Texas Constitution, is nothing more than an effort to weaken the Constitutional authority of the office of Texas governor, and sets a dangerous precedent by allowing a grand jury to punish the exercise of a lawsuit and constitutional authority afforded to the governor."
Texas Republicans have long complained that the Public Integrity Unit is a thinly disguised partisan operation where the almost always Democratic District Attorney of Travis County can use hand-picked grand jurors to harass Republican state officials.
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's indictment by the Public Integrity Unit was later thrown out by an appeals court, and the Unit unsuccessfully tried to bring charges against Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison.
Now that he has been indicted on felony charges, Perry will have to turn himself in to the Travis County Jail and be fingerprinted and have a mug shot taken. The mug shot is certain to appear in Democratic TV ads in this fall's elections and if Perry decides to run for President in 2016.
In fact, Perry backers have already spun this indictment to indicate that Perry is the Republican who Democrats 'fear the most' and felt necessary to 'take down.'
Ironically, this argument is powerful among 'Tea Party' conservatives who have never embraced Perry as a true conservative.