Texas court dismisses indictment against former governor Rick Perry

Texas Gov. Rick Perry: Indictment Is 'Abuse of Power'

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) -- The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Wednesday dismissed an indictment against former governor Rick Perry that alleged he had abused his power by using a veto to try to force a county prosecutor from office.

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Perry, was dogged by the case during his unsuccessful campaign for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. He faced a first-degree felony charge, that could have brought up to 99 years in prison, arising from a funding veto he made while he was governor in 2013 that was seen as being intended to force a local district attorney to resign.

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Texas court dismisses indictment against former governor Rick Perry

Texas Gov. Rick Perry was booked Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014, on two felony counts for allegedly carrying out political threats.

(Image courtesy: Travis County Sheriff's Office)

Texas Governor Rick Perry waits to greet US President Barack Obama in Dallas, Texas, on July 9, 2014 as he arrives for a meeting with local elected officials and faith leaders to discuss the urgent humanitarian situation at the Southwest border. Obama requested $3.7 billion in emergency funding from Congress to help cope with a surge of unaccompanied child immigrants from Central America. AFP PHOTO/Jewel Samad (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - MAY 31: Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks during the final day of the 2014 Republican Leadership Conference on May 31, 2014 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Some of the biggest names in the Republican Party made appearances at the 2014 Republican Leadership Conference, which hosts 1,500 delegates from across the country through May 31. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - MAY 31: Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks during the final day of the 2014 Republican Leadership Conference on May 31, 2014 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Some of the biggest names in the Republican Party made appearances at the 2014 Republican Leadership Conference, which hosts 1,500 delegates from across the country through May 31. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Texas Governor Rick Perry waits to greet US President Barack Obama in Dallas, Texas, on July 9, 2014 as he arrives for a meeting with local elected officials and faith leaders to discuss the urgent humanitarian situation at the Southwest border. Obama requested $3.7 billion in emergency funding from Congress to help cope with a surge of unaccompanied child immigrants from Central America. AFP PHOTO/Jewel Samad (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
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"When the only act that is being prosecuted is a veto, then the prosecution itself violates separation of powers," the court said.

The longest serving governor in Texas history, Perry was indicted on the two charges in August 2014 by a grand jury in Travis County, a Democratic stronghold in the heavily Republican state.

He first threatened and then vetoed $7.5 million for an integrity unit in the Travis County District Attorney's office. Many said Perry played hardball politics to force out county District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, a Democrat, after she pleaded guilty to drunken driving.

In July 2015, a Texas state appeals court threw out a lesser charge against Perry for coercion of a public official, leaving only the abuse-of-power charge.

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Lawyers for Perry, whose term ended at the start of 2015, have argued that the governor was acting within his powers when he made the funding cut. Perry called the case against him politically motivated.

A prosecutor in the case said that Perry acted unlawfully to pressure Lehmberg, who remained in office.

In September 2015, Perry, struggling to raise money and languishing near the bottom in presidential opinion polls, became the first member of the crowded Republican field to drop out of the 2016 White House race. He also sought the nomination unsuccessfully in 2012.

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