AUSTIN Gov. Rick Perry's attorneys have yet to lay out their case in court, but they are already framing it for the public.

'Let's not forget what precipitated this... the reason we're all here,' said Tony Buzbee, Perry's new lead defense attorney.

It's not about what the governor did, Buzbee said, but rather it's about what Democratic Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg did when she was arrested for driving under the influence in April 2013.

Perry's attorneys even showed video of her in jail last year.

Last Friday, a Travis County grand jury indicted the governor on two felonies coercion and abuse of official capacity for threatening to veto funding for Lehmberg's Public Integrity Unit unless she resigned from office.

The PIU investigates public corruption

'This is an attempt to criminalize politics, pure and simple,' said Bobby Burchfield, another attorney working for Perry. 'It should not and it will not succeed.'

But Democrats said that spin won't work in court.

'The governor is trying to put someone else on trial. The governor is trying to shift the blame to someone else rather than taking responsibility for his own actions,' said Will Hailer, executive director of the Texas Democratic Party.

Buzbee and Burchfield are two of the four additional attorneys that Perry hired Monday to fight the felonies.

But James Henson Ph.D., director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas, said the longer this case lasts legally, the less certain that Perry can recover politically.

'In the short term, he's getting lots of Republicans to rally around him because of the partisan framework, but it makes the presidential run much more complicated and difficult,' Henson said.

It's not the veto as much as verbalizing it that this case will likely center around.

The governor's attorneys argue that the First Amendment and the state constitution protect him. It's part of their strategy to paint this case as political persecution rather than a criminal prosecution.

Perry will be booked, fingerprinted and get a mugshot in the coming days.

His arraignment was moved up to this Friday, but it's uncertain if he'll be there for it since the governor was originally scheduled to be in New Hampshire on that day.


Read or Share this story: