Fri August 15, 2014
TIMELINE: Governor Rick Perry's Felony Indictment
For the first time in nearly a century, the Texas governor is facing felony charges.
Rick Perry has been indicted by a Travis County grand jury for abuse of office and coercion. The charges mean the sitting governor will be booked and arraigned (with fingerprints and a mugshot); they carry possible jail sentences up to 109 years.
At the heart of the charges is whether or not Perry abused his power by threatening to veto $7.5 million in state funding for the Travis County District Attorney's Public Integrity Unit.
How did we get here? We've collected KUT's coverage of this story up until this point to bring you up to date. It begins with the arrest of Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg last year.
April 2013: Lehmberg Arrested
"A Travis County Sheriff's deputy arrested District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg for drunk driving after someone called 911 around 10:45 p.m. last night, according to an arrest affidavit.
The caller said they saw a Lexus driving in the bike lane on southbound FM 620 for about a mile before swerving back into the proper lane. The caller also said the Lexus briefly swerved into oncoming traffic near Comanche Trail."
An open bottle of vodka was found in Lehmberg's car. Lehmberg said she would plead guilty to a DWI charge, and did so on April 19, 2013. She was sentenced to 45 days in jail and a $4,000 fine. She sought treatment after her release.
Spring 2013: Calls for Lehmberg to Resign; Veto Threat From Governor
In the weeks after the arrest and charges, there were calls (and a petition) for Lehmberg to step down. In June, Governor Perry demanded Lehmberg step down from the office, threatening to veto funding for the Public Integrity Unit -- a county office that prosecutes political corruption -- if she did not. Some Republicans in the state legislature have tried unsuccessfully over the years to take power and funding away from the division. It's the same office that prosecuted former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom Delay, who's conviction was overturned last year on appeal.
If Lehmberg had stepped down, some Democratic lawmakers feared Perry could pick her replacement at a crucial time. The unit was investigating corruption in one of the governor's pet projects funded with state money, the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT).
Lehmberg refused to step down.
June 2013: Perry Vetoes
Perry vetoed funding for the Public Integrity Unit on June 14, 2013.
When Perry made good on the veto threat, some said it was in danger of crossing a legal line. One of those people was Craig McDonald with Texans for Public Justice, a public watchdog group, which ultimately filed a complaint against the governor.
"The governor was using his office, and the power of his office, in threatening to use one of his official acts to try to coerce a member of the public, in this case a duly elected Travis County District Attorney, to give up her job," McDonald said on June 18, 2013.
Fall 2013: Special Prosecutor Assigned
On August 16, 2013, Judge Robert Richardson of San Antonio announced he would assign a special prosecutor to review the complaint filed by Texans for Public Justice. Perry's office said at the time that he was using his constitutional authority as Governor.
December 2013: Travis County Grand Jury Indicts Former CPRIT Official
A Travis County grand jury has indicted Jerald Cobbs, a former executive with the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT), in connection with an $11 million grant the agency approved without putting it through required reviews.
The charge of securing execution of a document by deception carries a potential jail sentence of five to 99 years or life, and a fine of up to $10,000.
April 2014: Grand Jury Considering Indictment
It becomes apparent Perry could be indicted as a result of the investigation.
Gov. Perry could be charged with several offenses, including bribery, coercion of a public servant, and abuse of power after vetoing [$7.5 million] in state money for the unit that investigates political corruption.
Summer 2014: Perry Indicted
On August 15, 2014, Perry is indicted by the grand jury on two felony charges. Next week his booking and arraignment date is expected to be announced.