Rick Perry: How did we get here?

KVUE takes an in-depth look on how Gov. Rick Perry got from the governor's mansion to the Travis County courthouse.

On a hot August afternoon, the longest-serving governor in Texas history arrived at the Travis County Justice Complex to be fingerprinted and have his mug shot taken.

It's the first time in nearly 100 years that a Texas governor has been indicted. In 1917, Democrat James Ferguson was convicted and removed from office after vetoing funding for the University of Texas after a disagreement with faculty members.

How did Gov. Rick Perry get from the governor's mansion to the Travis County Jail? It all started in April 2013.

Lehmberg arrested

"Do you know who I am?"

Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg was arrested on April 12, 2013.

She told police she'd had a "rough week." She went to see a movie, had a few drinks, then had a few more and got behind the wheel of her Lexus. A witness told police she was driving on the shoulder of Ranch Road 620 in Austin, swerving in and out of traffic and driving through an intersection. She then pulled over in front of a church -- where she was soon met by a Travis County sheriff's deputy.

According to an arrest warrant, Lehmberg, 64, had an open bottle of vodka in the passenger seat. Police said she had bloodshot eyes, slurred speech and shaky balance. She admitted to having two vodka drinks and that she'd recently taken 20 milligrams of Propranolol, a medicine used to treat high blood pressure or anxiety. Lehmberg, who deputies said had a "cocky" and "insulting" attitude, refused a breath test and the one-leg stand test.

Dashboard camera video was released shortly after her arrest, showing Lehmberg's behavior during the field sobriety test. She couldn't walk in a straight line and was stumbling. At one point, she needed to be held up by officers, who then placed her in handcuffs.

Once in the patrol car, Lehmberg complained about being cuffed and demanded the deputy pull the car over. At one point, she asked the officer, "Do you know who I am?" The officer responded, "Yes, ma'am, I do."

Her bad behavior didn't stop there. Lehmberg was booked into the Travis County Jail, where a test revealed her blood alcohol content was .239, nearly three times the legal limit. Once in jail, surveillance video showed Lehmberg kicking doors and yelling at officers. Jailers had to put a spit guard over her face and they placed her in a restraining chair.

She was released the following morning.

Shortly after the arrest, Lehmberg told KVUE she "messed up," that she was sorry and she was glad she didn't hurt anybody.

"I will talk with a lawyer," Lehmberg said. "But I'm guilty, and I will plead guilty. It's just a matter of what I have to do to make amends. I don't intend to resign. I made a mistake and I regret it, but I'm not perfect, and I think and I hope that people will forgive me."

Petition filed

"Lehmberg violated the public trust..."

Just days later, Austin lawyer Kerry O'Brien filed a citizen's petition seeking Lehmberg's resignation.

The petition said in part:

"Pursuant to Texas Local Government Code Section 87, a district attorney may be removed from office for intoxication on or off duty caused by drinking an alcoholic beverage. Lehmberg has already admitted that she was intoxicated and all indications suggest that it was caused by drinking an alcoholic beverage. Her forthcoming guilty plea will demonstrate such as a matter of law.

As a prosecutor with over 35 years of experience prosecuting drunk drivers, Lehmberg was well aware of the extreme danger of getting behind the wheel of a car intoxicated and driving it at night on public roads. Lehmberg violated the public trust, demeaned her office and created a substantial risk of injury to others."

READ: Kerry O'Brien's citizen's petition

O'Brien told KVUE, "I don't want Ms. Lehmberg to be drug through the public and embarrassed, but when you hold a position of power, you have a responsibility."

O'Brien's lawsuit was later dismissed, but another lawsuit was filed the same day. The new lawsuit asked whether Lehmberg's drunk driving was a single incident or an ongoing problem.

Lehmberg pleads guilty

"I apologize to all of you."

Lehmberg pleaded guilty to an open container violation and driving while intoxicated. She was sentenced to 45 days in jail, and her license was suspended for 180 days. She also had to pay a $4,000 fine.

Lehmberg's lawyer said it was the harshest sentence for a first offense DWI in the history of the county.

For many, it wasn't enough. The Austin Police Association called for Lehmberg's resignation, but not because of the DWI conviction.

"I don't think it's because of the arrest itself, so much, I think it was the behavior afterwards, the total lack of respect for the process that she's over," Wayne Vincent with the Austin Police Association told KVUE in April 2013.

On April 27, Lehmberg issued an apology letter from jail. It said in part, "I apologize to all of you. There can be no anger directed at me or disappointment in me greater than my own. And, I neither believe nor expect that any words written or speech given can possibly convey the magnitude of the shame I feel for breaking the law and therefore, the trust with the people I serve and the community I love."

READ: Lehmberg pens letter from jail

Lehmberg was released from jail on May 9 after serving 21 days. Her attorneys told the media that she planned to serve out the remaining three years of her term as district attorney, but she will not run for re-election. They also said Lehmberg planned to seek treatment.

However, the story wasn't over for Lehmberg. Austin attorney Rick Reed filed a complaint soon after Lehmberg's arrest alleging that she was guilty of obstruction, a third-degree felony.

Perry vetoes funding

"I therefore object to and disapprove of this appropriation."

In June, Gov. Rick Perry vowed to veto funding for the state's Austin-based Public Integrity Unit, an arm of the district attorney's office, unless Lehmberg resigned. Perry said Lehmberg lacks integrity and should have resigned immediately after her DWI arrest.

The Public Integrity Unit (PIU) investigates public corruption cases, insurance fraud, tax fraud and white collar crimes. Lehmberg's office secured the conviction of former U.S. House majority leader Tom DeLay on money laundering charges.

Around the time of Perry's threat to veto funding, the PIU was investigating how grants were awarded by the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT). The investigation involved the alleged misuse of $56 million intended for cancer research that was suspected of going into companies with investors who supported Perry. Some have said that Perry's threat to veto was an attempt to stop this investigation.

"I think he's trying to shut that down as well as, maybe, some other investigations," Glenn Smith with Progress Texas PAC told KVUE last year.

Smith told KVUE threatening to withhold funding from the PIU was all about politics -- not Lehmberg.

"To do away with that [funding] is unconscionable, and it gives you a clue [about] Perry's character and how little the law matters to him," Smith said.

Perry's attorneys have since said that Perry had no connection to the CPRIT investigation.

At the time, Perry's office didn't acknowledge that the governor threatened to veto the funds, but Rich Parsons, a spokesperson for Perry's office, issued the following statement: "The governor is going through the budget line by line, and specifically with regard to the Public Integrity Unit, the governor has deep concerns regarding the integrity of the PIU."

On June 14, Perry followed through on his threat. He vetoed $7.5 million designated for the PIU over a two-year period, leaving Lehmberg to decide whether to use local funds to keep the unit running.

Perry's veto:

Article IV - The Judiciary

Judiciary Section, Comptroller's Department

D.1.4 Strategy: PUBLIC INTEGRITY UNIT, $3,742,829 $3,830,597


Public Integrity Unit, 53rd Judicial District.

Despite the otherwise good work the Public Integrity Unit's employees, I cannot in good conscience support continued State funding for an office with statewide jurisdiction at a time when the person charged with ultimate responsibility of that unit has lost the public's confidence. This unit is in no other way held accountable to state taxpayers, except through the State budgetary process. I therefore object to and disapprove of this appropriation.

Because of the veto, 35 PIU employees' jobs were on the line, including 10 assistant district attorneys, seven investigators and six forensic accountants. At the time of the veto, the PIU had more than 420 pending cases. Of those cases, 220 were awaiting trial, and 20 involved public corruption. Because of this, State Rep. Sylvester Turner (D-Houston) filed a resolution hoping to override the governor's veto.

Lehmberg, speaking to the media for the first time since her arrest, said, "If I resign now, which I'm not going to do, by the way, and I will address that at a later time, I don't think that would solve the problem. I want to solve the problem."

She did just that. Lehmberg requested that funds needed for the PIU be taken from the county's general fund. County commissioners later voted to give the office $1.76 million, which would allow about 24 employees to keep their jobs, and the unit could continue running.

On June 26, after the veto, watchdog group Texans for Public Justice filed a criminal complaint with Travis County, saying Perry simply threatening to withhold funding was a potential criminal offense. The complaint accused Perry of coercion of a public servant, abuse of official capacity and official oppression.

READ: Texans for Public Justice's official complaint

Craig McDonald, the director of Texans for Public Justice, filed the complaint with State District Judge Julie Kocurek and Travis County. Kocurek recused herself, meaning a special judge and prosecutor would be assigned to the case.

The investigation begins

"I am very concerned about certain aspects of what happened here."

In July, State District Judge Billy Ray Stubbenfield tasked District Judge Robert Richardson with overseeing the investigation into Texans for Public Justice's complaint.

On Aug. 19, Richardson announced that San Antonio lawyer Michael McCrum would look into the complaint. McCrum, a criminal defense attorney, would determine if Perry's threat and veto violated any state laws.

In September, a grand jury was seated to consider the case against Perry as well as Lehmberg's conduct while in jail.

The following month, that grand jury declined to indict Lehmberg on any criminal charge stemming from her behavior inside the jail. A judge also ruled in December that she would be allowed to keep her job.

The grand jury that no-billed Lehmberg began investigating the accusations against Perry, but its term expired.

In April 2014, McCrum told KVUE and the Austin American-Statesman that he was "concerned" about the governor's conduct during the veto.

"I cannot elaborate on what exactly is concerning me, but I can tell you, I am very concerned about certain aspects of what happened here," McCrum said.

Representatives for the governor's office maintained that Perry broke no laws; he was exercising his constitutional veto authority through line-item vetoes in the budget.

Later that month, a second grand jury was appointed to investigate Perry's abuse of power accusations. Perry hired David Botsford, a high-profile Austin defense attorney, to represent him.

"The matter at hand pertains to the power of the governor to issue vetoes as allowed under the Texas Constitution," Bostford told KVUE. "I have been retained to ensure that (the special prosecutor) receives all the facts, which will show that the governor's veto was carried out in both the spirit and the letter of the law."

At least four of Perry's aides appeared before the grand jury: legislative director Ken Armbrister, general counsel Mary Anne Wiley, deputy chief of staff Mike Morrissey and spokesman Rich Parsons. It's unknown if they appeared voluntarily or if they were subpoenaed.

Perry did not testify.

Perry indicted

"I will explore every legal avenue to expedite this matter and bring it to a swift conclusion."

On Aug. 18, the grand jury chose to indict Perry on two charges: Abuse of official capacity, a first-degree felony, and coercion of a public servant, a third-degree felony.

The indictments didn't question the veto itself, but Perry's conduct regarding Lehmberg. The legal case centered on whether Perry coerced Lehmberg and if he broke the law when doing so.

In regards to the abuse of official capacity charge, the indictment said that Perry "intentionally or knowingly misused government property by dealing with such property contrary to an agreement under which [Perry] held such property or contrary to the oath of office he took as a public servant, such government property being monies having a value in excess of $200,000 which were approved and authorized by the Legislature of the State of Texas to fund the continued operation of the Public Integrity Unit of the Travis County District Attorney's Office…"

The indictment also said between June 10 and June 14, Perry threatened to veto legislation that had been approved by the Texas legislature unless Lehmberg resigned. The indictment says, "James Richard 'Rick' Perry intentionally or knowingly influenced or attempted to influence Rosemary Lehmberg…"

READ: Gov. Rick Perry indictment

Perry's staff and supporters voiced their disappointment in the decision after the indictment.

Wiley, Perry's general counsel, issued this statement following the indictment:

"The veto in question was made in accordance with the veto authority afforded to every governor under the Texas Constitution. We will continue to aggressively defend the governor's lawful and constitutional action, and believe we will ultimately prevail."

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst also voiced his displeasure at "Travis County's attempt to criminalize state politics."

The Texas Democratic Party immediately called for Perry to step down, saying that the governor "brought dishonor to his office, his family and the state of Texas."

The day after his indictment, Perry said he stands behind his veto and will "explore every legal avenue" to defend it.

"This indictment amounts to nothing more than an abuse of power, and I cannot and will not allow that to happen," Perry said. "I intend to fight against those who would erode our state's constitution and laws purely for political purposes, and I intend to win. I will explore every legal avenue to expedite this matter and bring it to a swift conclusion. I am confident we will ultimately prevail, that this farce of a prosecution will be revealed for what it is and that those responsible will be held to account."

In a press conference several days after the indictment, Perry's legal team characterized the charges as "outrageous" and "inexplicable."

Perry's attorneys turned the focus to Lehmberg, playing video of her arrest for reporters at the press conference.

"Anybody who sees that tape and understands that conduct would have lost confidence in the Travis County district attorney," lead attorney Tony Buzbee said. "When Gov. Perry saw that tape, he of course lost confidence in her, and rightly, as was his right to veto that line item."

Despite this, Perry's attorneys maintained that the governor didn't threaten the district attorney. Botsford told reporters that the only record of the alleged threat is one newspaper article.

The newspaper article in question is this June 11, 2013 article in the Austin American-Statesman.

However, official sources confirmed Perry's ultimatum to KVUE and other media organizations, and Perry himself has not denied it.

It's unknown if the prosecution lawyers have proof of the threat.

Perry surrenders

"And then, ice cream cone at Sandy's"

Perry supporters chanted the governor's name as he walked up to the Travis County Justice Complex to turn himself in just after 5 p.m. on Aug. 19.

"I'm going to enter this courthouse with my head held high," Perry told the crowd standing outside the courthouse. "I'm here today because I did the right thing."

Perry told the crowd if given the chance, he would veto the money again, then walked inside the Travis County Justice Complex to be formally processed.

After being booked, the governor vowed to fight the charges against him -- then he headed to Sandy's Hamburgers for some ice cream.

Perry entered a not guilty plea on both charges and waived his arraignment, which was scheduled for Aug. 22, one week after the indictment was issued, due to a scheduled visit to New Hampshire.

The case unfolds

"At no time in CPRIT investigation was Governor Rick Perry or anyone from the Governor's office a target."

Just days after Perry surrendered, the governor's legal team attempted to nullify any accusations that Perry's veto were based around the investigation into CPRIT.

On Aug. 21, Perry's attorneys released a sworn affidavit from a former Public Integrity Unit criminal investigator claiming that the CPRIT investigation did not involve Perry or anyone from his office.

The affidavit from criminal investigator Chris Walling said in part, "At no time in CPRIT investigation was Governor Rick Perry or anyone from the Governor's office a target. At no time did I ever obtain evidence that suggested any wrongdoing on behalf of Governor Rick Perry or the Governor's office."

The affidavit said McCrum questioned Walling about Perry's potential involvement in the CPRIT investigation, and Walling told McCrum there was no evidence to suggest any wrongdoing. Walling also said that during his time working in the PIU, he was never involved in an investigation targeting Perry or anyone in the governor's office.

READ: Chris Walling's testimony

Perry's lawyers also announced that the governor's legal team, who previously had been paid by the state, would now be paid using Perry's campaign funds.

The governor waived his arraignment originally scheduled for Aug. 22, but Perry's lawyers met with Judge Bert Richardson to confer in the judge's chambers.

On Aug. 25, Perry's lawyers filed a 60-page writ of habeas corpus to dismiss the charges.

The writ claims the charges are unconstitutional and that Perry was simply exercising his constitutional veto powers when he vetoed funding for the Public Integrity Unit last summer.

"By seeking to criminalize not merely the veto itself, but the Governor's explanation for it as well, this prosecution also violates the Governor's rights under Free Speech Clauses of the United States and Texas Constitution..." the writ says in part.

READ: Writ of habeas corpus filed by Perry's attorneys

The writ also states the indictment violates the constitutional separation of powers and the speech or debate clause in the Texas Constitution.

Perry filed a motion to dismiss the indictment in September, and his attorneys filed a second motion to dismiss the indictment in October.

READ: Perry's motion to quash, dismiss indictment

READ: Second writ of habeas corpus filed by Perry's attorneys

Perry made his first court appearance in November, and Judge Bert Richardson focused on whether or not prosecutor Michael McCrum followed the correct procedure when he was sworn in to the case. McCrum has told KVUE he has "no doubt" that he followed procedure, but Perry's lawyers have requested that the case be dismissed on those technicalities.

On Nov. 18, 2014 Richardson ruled that the case against Perry would continue.

Perry spends $1 million in campaign funds for lawyers

What's next?

Case will continue, attorneys still fighting

On Jan. 27, 2015, Judge Bert Richardson ruled that the case against Perry would continue, but charged prosecutor Michael McCrum with correcting vagueness in one of the charges and stated that another charge failed to provide specifics in how Perry misused state funds.

Perry responded by saying if given the chance, he would veto the funds again, and that he would continue fighting the charges against him. He also said the case would not affect his decision to run for president, and that his team was expecting to make an announcement in May or June.

Perry vows to continue fight against criminal charges

Three days after the ruling, Perry's attorneys filed a third motion to quash and dismiss the indictment.

The third filing states Judge Bert Richardson's decision on Tuesday shows the court "has serious, well-founded concerns regarding the sufficiency of both counts of the indictment."

READ: Third motion to quash, dismiss indictment

The attorneys' motion states that "All citizens accused of any crime have the right to adequate notice of the specific charges" and that the Sixth Amendment requires "a defendant to be given notice of the 'nature and cause' of the accusation against him so that he may prepare a defense," and that the case against Perry violated this.

In the motion, Perry's attorneys argue that the abuse of official capacity count is vague and "fails to allege an offense" against the former governor. Specifically, the motion states the count fails to specify under what agreement Perry held the property in question, how he violated said agreement and how he violated his oath of office in regards to how he dealt with the property. It also states the charge fails to allege that Perry used the property for personal, non-governmental purposes.

The motion also states that Perry's veto of money for the Public Integrity Unit did not constitute a "misuse" of state money and that it is legally impossible for Perry to have misused the money, since he never had custody or possession of the money in the first place. Perry's attorneys also argue that Perry's oath of office does not specify the manner or method by which he has to deal with any bill submitted to him by legislators.

In regards to the coercion charge, the motion also argues that it fails to allege an offense because "it does not appear that an offense against the law was committed by the defendant" and it "contains matter which is a legal defense or bar to the prosecution." Perry's attorneys argue that the coercion charge is also vague and failed to provide him with adequate notice to prepare a defense. The motion states the charge "fails to allege the manner and means of the alleged 'threat'" against Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, and that it does not specify the language of the alleged threat. The attorneys argue that Lehmberg's resignation would have been her decision, not Perry's.

What's next?

Lehmberg under fire, Perry for president?

Lehmberg remains in office, but her battle is not yet over. Kerry O'Brien, the same lawyer who filed the initial lawsuit against the district attorney, filed two ethics complaints in August 2014 against Lehmberg and Patricia Summerville, the assistant campaign manager for the "Friends of Rosemary Lehmberg" PAC. O'Brien's complaint cites alleged unreported campaign contributions the district attorney used to pay for her removal lawsuit. The complaint says between July and December 2013, Lehmberg reported zero campaign contributions, but a January 2014 report shows the payment made to the Richards, Rodriguez and Skieth LLP law firm on Dec. 27, 2013.

READ: Kerry O'Brien v. Rosemary Lehmberg

READ: Kerry O'Brien v. Patricia Summerville

As for Perry, he handed over the reins as governor to Greg Abbott on Jan. 20, 2015, and he hasn't ruled out a potential 2016 presidential run, continuing to make appearances across the country.

Perry faces up to 109 years in prison and $20,000 in fines if found guilty.


To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment