Texas' Perry in court for heated pretrial hearing

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Texas Gov. Rick Perry Indicted

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -- Texas Gov. Rick Perry made his first court appearance Thursday but left the dramatics to his attorneys, who argued strenuously that the felony charges against him should be thrown out on technicalities.

His high-powered defense team said the counts of abuse of official power and coercion of a public servant ought to be quashed since the special prosecutor bringing them was never properly sworn in and some paperwork wasn't correctly filed.

Attorneys for the Republican governor and possible 2016 presidential hopeful sniped so frequently with the special prosecutor leading the case, Michael McCrum, that the proceedings often felt like a television drama - complete with a courtroom packed with reporters and carried live on the Internet.

"This whole proceeding, the whole way this came about, is a comedy of errors," said Tony Buzbee, Perry's lead defense attorney, who sometimes glared at McCrum as he paced the room.

McCrum said he followed procedure correctly, countering: "Mr. Perry, through his attorneys, can't create or invent Texas law that's not there."

The presiding judge, San Antonio-based Republican Bert Richardson, said he planned to rule next week on whether the case can continue.

Perry, the longest-serving governor in Texas history, is leaving office in January. He was indicted in August by a grand jury in Travis County, which includes Austin, a liberal enclave in otherwise fiercely conservative Texas. He is accused of publicly threatening - then making good on - a veto of $7.5 million in state funding last year for a public corruption division within the office of Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg.

That came after Lehmberg, a Democrat, refused to resign following a conviction and jail time for drunken driving. Lehmberg has since recused herself from the Perry case.

Perry calls the indictment a "political witch hunt" and told reporters outside the courtroom, "I stand behind my veto and I would make that veto again."

He's eying another presidential run after his short-lived 2012 bid and, asked if this could mar that or his final months in office, Perry said, "I don't have any question about being able to multitask and to get things done."

The governor quietly conferred with his lawyers at points during Thursday's proceedings, but mostly just watched while occasionally glancing down at the table in front of him and sipping water.

He was allowed to skip other pretrial hearings, but Richardson ordered him to appear this time. It also was Perry's 32nd wedding anniversary, and though he Tweeted a wedding photo, his wife Anita wasn't in court.

While making his arguments, Buzbee used slides, including a picture of and quotes form the Constitution.

"Dismiss this case immediately so Governor Perry can get on about his business," Buzbee said. The defense has also sought to have the case tossed out on the grounds that Perry was within his constitutional rights as governor - but that motion has yet to be discussed in court.

McCrum, who called the governor only "Mr. Perry" since he said he was no different than any other defendant, called two witnesses. They were both court officials who testified that legal procedures in the matter were followed as normal.

Buzbee did a double-take, though, when it was divulged that court authorities created a special "cause number," or filing classification, for the Perry case before charges were brought. He was told that was a housekeeping issue given the amount of paperwork the high-profile case was expected to generate.

Still, the only other time that happened was when the Travis County public corruption unit convicted former Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay on campaign finance charges - which were later overturned on appeal.

"Misplaced documents, special cause numbers for Republican governors in a very blue county?" Buzbee said, calling the case "a slam-dunk for dismissal."

McCrum said that was "malarkey."

"Judge, it's amazing to me that (Buzbee) would put the court in the positon that if it rules against the defendant it's against the Constitution," he said. "It's an assertion clearly made with media in the room."

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Gov. Rick Perry in legal trouble 11/6
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Texas' Perry in court for heated pretrial hearing
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, right, answers questions from the media following a hearing on felony abuse of power charges at the Blackwell-Thurman Criminal Justice Center, Thursday, Nov. 6, 2014, in Austin, Texas. An Austin grand jury indicted Perry in August. The charges stem from his carrying out a threat to veto state funding for public corruption prosecutors. (AP Photo/Tamir Kalifa)
Texas Gov. Rick Perry appeared in an Austin court Thursday for a pre-trial hearing regarding felony abuse of power charges he faces. In a statement following the hearing, he maintained his innocence. (Nov. 6)
Texas Gov. Rick Perry answers questions from the media following a hearing on felony abuse of power charges at the Blackwell-Thurman Criminal Justice Center, Thursday, Nov. 6, 2014, in Austin, Texas. An Austin grand jury indicted Perry in August. The charges stem from his carrying out a threat to veto state funding for public corruption prosecutors. (AP Photo/Tamir Kalifa)
Texas Gov. Rick Perry answers questions from the media following a hearing on felony abuse of power charges at the Blackwell-Thurman Criminal Justice Center, Thursday, Nov. 6, 2014, in Austin, Texas. An Austin grand jury indicted Perry in August. The charges stem from his carrying out a threat to veto state funding for public corruption prosecutors. (AP Photo/Tamir Kalifa)
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, second right, listens as his lawyers Tony Buzbee, right, speaks and his other lawyer David Botsford, left, looks on during a hearing on felony abuse of power charges in the 390th District Court at the Blackwell-Thurman Criminal Justice Center, Thursday, Nov. 6, 2014, in Austin, Texas. An Austin grand jury indicted Perry in August. The charges stem from his carrying out a threat to veto state funding for public corruption prosecutors. (AP Photo/Austin American-Statesman, Jay Janner, Pool)
Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks during a Republican victory party Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
This image provided by the Austin Police Department shows Texas Gov. Rick Perry while being booked at the Blackwell-Thurman Criminal Justice Center in Austin, Texas, for two felony indictments of abuse of power on Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Austin Police Department)
A group holds signsabout Texas Gov. Rick Perry as he leaves the Blackwell Thurman Criminal Justice Center after he was booked, Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014, in Austin, Texas. Perry was indicted last week on charges of coercion and official oppression for publicly promising to veto $7.5 million for the state public integrity unit run. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, left, laughs with his attorney David Botsford, right, as he is booked at the Blackwell Thurman Criminal Justice Center, Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014, in Austin, Texas. Perry has been booked on two felony counts of abuse of power for carrying out a threat to veto funding to state public corruption prosecutors. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, center, is booked at the Blackwell Thurman Criminal Justice Center, Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014, in Austin, Texas. Perry has been booked on two felony counts of abuse of power for carrying out a threat to veto funding to state public corruption prosecutors. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, center, arrives at the Blackwell Thurman Criminal Justice Center, Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014, in Austin, Texas. Perry has been booked on two felony counts of abuse of power for carrying out a threat to veto funding to state public corruption prosecutors. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, front right, is escorted away from the Blackwell Thurman Criminal Justice Center, Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014, in Austin, Texas. Perry has been booked on two felony counts of abuse of power for carrying out a threat to veto funding to state public corruption prosecutors. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
A supporter holds a sign for Texas Gov. Rick Perry as he talks with media and supporters at the Blackwell Thurman Criminal Justice Center after he was booked, Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014, in Austin, Texas. Perry was indicted last week on charges of coercion and official oppression for publicly promising to veto $7.5 million for the state public integrity unit run. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, right, arrives at the Blackwell Thurman Criminal Justice Center for booking, Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014, in Austin, Texas. Perry has been booked on two felony counts of abuse of power for carrying out a threat to veto funding to state public corruption prosecutors. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
A supporter of Texas Gov. Rick Perry holds a sign as he speaks at the Blackwell Thurman Criminal Justice Center, Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014, in Austin, Texas. Perry was indicted last week on charges of coercion and official oppression by publicly promising to veto $7.5 million for the state public integrity unit run. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, left, talks with his attorney David Botsford, right, as he is booked at the Blackwell Thurman Criminal Justice Center, Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014, in Austin, Texas. Perry has been booked on two felony counts of abuse of power for carrying out a threat to veto funding to state public corruption prosecutors. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Texas Gov. Rick Perry talks to the media and supporters after he was booked at the Blackwell Thurman Criminal Justice Center, Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014, in Austin, Texas. Perry was indicted last week on charges of coercion and official oppression for publicly promising to veto $7.5 million for the state public integrity unit run. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Texas Gov. Rick Perry talks to the media and supporters after he was booked at the Blackwell Thurman Criminal Justice Center, Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014, in Austin, Texas. Perry was indicted last week on charges of coercion and official oppression for publicly promising to veto $7.5 million for the state public integrity unit run. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Texas Gov. Rick Perry talks to the media and supporters after he was booked at the Blackwell Thurman Criminal Justice Center, Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014, in Austin, Texas. Perry was indicted last week on charges of coercion and official oppression for publicly promising to veto $7.5 million for the state public integrity unit run. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, left, leaves the Blackwell Thurman Criminal Justice Center after he was booked, Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014, in Austin, Texas. Perry was indicted last week on charges of coercion and official oppression for publicly promising to veto $7.5 million for the state public integrity unit run. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
FILE - In this Aug. 18, 2014, file photo, U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., talks with reporters after a town hall meeting in Derry, N.H. McCain has scoffed at the indictment of Texas Gov. Rick Perry on abuse-of-power charges, and has encouraged Perry make repeated stops in New Hampshire as early presidential campaigning begin. Perry is set to visit New Hampshire on Friday and Saturday, Aug. 22-23, 2014. (AP Photo/Jim Cole, File)
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, front right, is escorted away from the Blackwell Thurman Criminal Justice Center after he was booked, Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014, in Austin, Texas. Perry has been booked on two felony counts of abuse of power for carrying out a threat to veto funding to state public corruption prosecutors. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Pedestrians enter and exit the Blackwell Thurman Criminal Justice Center, Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, in Austin, Texas. A judge has decided not to issue an arrest warrant for Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a court official said Monday, meaning the Republican can continue traveling the country and gearing up for a possible 2016 presidential run despite being indicted on two felony counts of abuse of power. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Pedestrians enter and exit the Blackwell Thurman Criminal Justice Center, Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, in Austin, Texas. A judge has decided not to issue an arrest warrant for Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a court official said Monday, meaning the Republican can continue traveling the country and gearing up for a possible 2016 presidential run despite being indicted on two felony counts of abuse of power. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Gov. Rick Perry makes a statement in Austin, Texas on Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014 concerning the indictment on charges of coercion of a public servant and abuse of his official capacity. Perry is the first Texas governor since 1917 to be indicted. (AP Photo/Michael Thomas)
Gov. Rick Perry makes a statement in Austin, Texas on Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014 concerning the indictment on charges of coercion of a public servant and abuse of his official capacity. Perry is the first Texas governor since 1917 to be indicted. (AP Photo/Michael Thomas)
Gov. Rick Perry makes a statement in Austin, Texas on Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014 concerning the indictment on charges of coercion of a public servant and abuse of his official capacity. Perry is the first Texas governor since 1917 to be indicted. (AP Photo/Michael Thomas)
Gov. Rick Perry makes a statement in Austin, Texas on Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014 concerning the indictment on charges of coercion of a public servant and abuse of his official capacity. Perry is the first Texas governor since 1917 to be indicted. (AP Photo/Michael Thomas)
Gov. Rick Perry makes a statement in Austin, Texas on Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014 concerning the indictment on charges of coercion of a public servant and abuse of his official capacity. Perry is the first Texas governor since 1917 to be indicted. (AP Photo/Michael Thomas)
Gov. Rick Perry makes a statement in Austin, Texas on Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014 concerning the indictment on charges of coercion of a public servant and abuse of his official capacity. Perry is the first Texas governor since 1917 to be indicted. (AP Photo/Michael Thomas)
AUSTIN, TX - AUGUST 19: Texas Governor Rick Perry bids farewell after speaking to the media after turning himself in to authorities at the Blackwell-Thurman Criminal Justice Center on August 19, 2014 in Austin, Texas. Perry was indicted last Friday on felony charges of abuse of power and coercion of a public servant. (Photo by Stewart F. House/Getty Images)
AUSTIN, TX - AUGUST 19: Texas Governor Rick Perry speaks to the media after turning himself in to authorities at the Blackwell-Thurman Criminal Justice Center on August 19, 2014 in Austin, Texas. Perry was indicted last Friday on felony charges of abuse of power and coercion of a public servant. (Photo by Stewart F. House/Getty Images)
AUSTIN, TX - AUGUST 19: Texas Governor Rick Perry speaks to the media after turning himself in to authorities at the Blackwell-Thurman Criminal Justice Center on August 19, 2014 in Austin, Texas. Perry was indicted last Friday on felony charges of abuse of power and coercion of a public servant. (Photo by Stewart F. House/Getty Images)
AUSTIN, TX - AUGUST 19: Bulverde residents Geri Ray (C) and Kaci Poindexter (R) with the Bulverde Republican Women, are interviewed by LeeAnn Walace with the media after Texas Governor Rick Perry turned himself in to authorities at the Blackwell-Thurman Criminal Justice Center on August 19, 2014 in Austin, Texas. Perry was indicted last Friday on felony charges of abuse of power and coercion of a public servant. (Photo by Stewart F. House/Getty Images)
AUSTIN, TX - AUGUST 19: Texas Governor Rick Perry speaks to the media after turning himself in to authorities at the Blackwell-Thurman Criminal Justice Center on August 19, 2014 in Austin, Texas. Perry was indicted last Friday on felony charges of abuse of power and coercion of a public servant. (Photo by Stewart F. House/Getty Images)
AUSTIN, TX - AUGUST 19: Texas Governor Rick Perry speaks to the media after turning himself in to authorities at the Blackwell-Thurman Criminal Justice Center on August 19, 2014 in Austin, Texas. Perry was indicted last Friday on felony charges of abuse of power and coercion of a public servant. (Photo by Stewart F. House/Getty Images)
AUSTIN, TX - AUGUST 19: Texas Governor Rick Perry arrives to speak to the press before turning himself in to authorities at the Blackwell-Thurman Criminal Justice Center on August 19, 2014 in Austin, Texas. Perry was indicted last Friday on felony charges of abuse of power and coercion of a public servant. (Photo by Stewart F. House/Getty Images)
AUSTIN, TX - AUGUST 19: Texas Governor Rick Perry emerges after being finger printed at the Blackwell-Thurman Criminal Justice Center on August 19, 2014 in Austin, Texas. Perry was indicted last Friday on felony charges of abuse of power and coercion of a public servant. (Photo by Stewart F. House/Getty Images)
AUSTIN, TX - AUGUST 19: Supporters shout for Texas Governor Rick Perry as he speaks to the press before turning himself in to authorities at the Blackwell-Thurman Criminal Justice Center on August 19, 2014 in Austin, Texas. Perry was indicted last Friday on felony charges of abuse of power and coercion of a public servant. (Photo by Stewart F. House/Getty Images)
AUSTIN, TX - AUGUST 19: Texas Governor Rick Perry speaks to the press before turning himself in to authorities at the Blackwell-Thurman Criminal Justice Center on August 19, 2014 in Austin, Texas. Perry was indicted last Friday on felony charges of abuse of power and coercion of a public servant. (Photo by Stewart F. House/Getty Images)
AUSTIN, TX - AUGUST 19: Texas Governor Rick Perry acknowledges supporters as he steps to the podium to speak to the press before turning himself in to authorities at the Blackwell-Thurman Criminal Justice Center on August 19, 2014 in Austin, Texas. Perry was indicted last Friday on felony charges of abuse of power and coercion of a public servant. (Photo by Stewart F. House/Getty Images)
AUSTIN, TX - AUGUST 19: Texas Governor Rick Perry speaks to the press before turning himself in to authorities at the Blackwell-Thurman Criminal Justice Center on August 19, 2014 in Austin, Texas. Perry was indicted last Friday on felony charges of abuse of power and coercion of a public servant. (Photo by Stewart F. House/Getty Images)
AUSTIN, TX - AUGUST 19: Texas Governor Rick Perry speaks to the press before turning himself in to authorities at the Blackwell-Thurman Criminal Justice Center on August 19, 2014 in Austin, Texas. Perry was indicted last Friday on felony charges of abuse of power and coercion of a public servant. (Photo by Stewart F. House/Getty Images)
AUSTIN, TX - AUGUST 19: Texas Governor Rick Perry speaks to the press before turning himself in to authorities at the Blackwell-Thurman Criminal Justice Center on August 19, 2014 in Austin, Texas. Perry was indicted last Friday on felony charges of abuse of power and coercion of a public servant. (Photo by Stewart F. House/Getty Images)
AUSTIN, TX - AUGUST 19: Texas Governor Rick Perry speaks to the press before turning himself in to authorities at the Blackwell-Thurman Criminal Justice Center on August 19, 2014 in Austin, Texas. Perry was indicted last Friday on felony charges of abuse of power and coercion of a public servant. (Photo by Stewart F. House/Getty Images)
AUSTIN, TX - AUGUST 19: Texas Governor Rick Perry speaks to the press before turning himself in to authorities at the Blackwell-Thurman Criminal Justice Center on August 19, 2014 in Austin, Texas. Perry was indicted last Friday on felony charges of abuse of power and coercion of a public servant. (Photo by Stewart F. House/Getty Images)
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