Texas Gov. Rick Perry, left, leaves the Blackwell Thurman Criminal Justice Center after he was booked, Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014, in Austin, Texas.
Photo by Eric Gay/AP

Texas’ Perry booked, takes mug shot

Updated
A Texas grand jury indicted Gov. Rick Perry (R) on two felony counts late Friday, and yesterday, eager to get it over with, the Republican governor went in for booking.
Gov. Rick Perry's booking photo, Aug. 19, 2014.
Gov. Rick Perry’s booking photo, Aug. 19, 2014.
Photo by Travis County Sheriff’s Office
Gov. Rick Perry appeared at a county courthouse Tuesday evening to be booked on felony charges after a grand jury indicted the Republican governor on abuse of power charges.
 
Reporting to the Travis County Courthouse in Austin, Texas, Perry, who is accused of two counts – coercion and threatening to veto funding to the state’s public integrity unit – surrendered to authorities and had his mug shot and fingerprints taken.
Naturally, Perry once again condemned the charges – and then went for ice cream.
 
A state judge set an arraignment date for this Friday, Aug. 22, though the governor will not have to be present for the hearing.
 
As for the political and legal debate surrounding the charges, I find it heartening, on a principled level, to see so many center-left observers blast the charges as baseless. At least on the surface, it speaks well of progressive voices in general that so many people who find Perry’s views abhorrent are nevertheless eager to defend the far-right Texan in this case.
 
I’m just not sure they’re correct.
 
One of the arguments that’s come up of late is that Perry is the victim of some kind of partisan vendetta, launched by Democrats. But that’s simply not the case – Democratic officials in Travis County recused themselves from the case, and the prosecutor in this case, Michael McCrum, worked in the Bush/Quayle administration. What’s more, McCrum, who enjoys a solid reputation as a credible attorney, was appointed to oversee this case by a Republican judge.
 
The Texans who sat on the grand jury, some of whom have voted in Republican primaries, seem pretty offended by the notion that they were reckless in their decision.
 
For that matter, as we discussed on Friday, Perry really had targeted Texas’ Public Integrity Unit before and state Republicans really did want one of their own in that office. If prosecutors have evidence the governor used his power to gut a Public Integrity Unit so that Republican state officials would face less scrutiny – in effect, using gubernatorial tools to protect his pals from possible prosecution – it’s hardly outrageous to think there’s legitimate wrongdoing here.
 
Indeed, locally, many believe the national media has been too quick to jump to Perry’s defense. From the Texas Observer yesterday:
Credible legal experts have said they think the prosecution will have a difficult time securing a conviction. However, none of us is privy to the evidence and testimony presented to the grand jury. According to Peggy Fikac of the San Antonio Express-News, McCrum said he “interviewed more than 40 people, reviewed hundreds of documents and read many dozens of cases.” Fikac and other reporters who staked out the courthouse long before the national press spent five minutes reading the indictment watched “current and former Perry staffers, Travis County employees and state lawmakers” entering the grand jury room over the summer.
 
It is possible that McCrum has gathered more information on Perry’s motives that will come to light later. Although the indictment doesn’t mention it, the Public Integrity Unit is investigating a scandal involving the $3 billion Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, a fund close to the governor’s office that suffered from cronyism and lax oversight. The Public Integrity Unit indicted one CPRIT official in December for deceiving his colleagues and awarding an $11 million grant to a Dallas biotech firm without a proper vetting.
 
What else, if anything, did McCrum turn up in his interviews and document search? At this point, we just don’t know.
Jeffrey Toobin added that the governor may be facing real trouble.
 
Watch this space.
 

Rick Perry and Texas

Texas' Perry booked, takes mug shot

Updated