The state’s highest criminal court dismissed the remaining indictment against former Gov. Rick Perry on Wednesday morning, apparently ending the case that started with his threat to veto state funding for a local prosecutor if she refused to quit her office.
After Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg was arrested and pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated, Perry threatened to veto state funding for her office unless she first resigned. The Travis County DA's office was home to the state's public integrity unit, which is charged with investigating and prosecuting state corruption.
Lehmberg, who served a short jail term, refused to quit. Perry followed through on his threat to veto state funding for her office.
He was indicted by a grand jury on charges of abusing his power and coercion of a public official. He and his lawyers argued — successfully, as it turns out — that he was acting within the powers of a governor and did nothing criminal.
A ruling earlier in the year by a state appeals court dismissed one of the two felony charges against Perry: coercion of a public servant. Perry's lawyers challenged that decision, arguing that the Austin-based 3rd Court of Appeals should have also dismissed the abuse-of-power charge.
And that’s what the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals did on Wednesday. Two of the court's nine judges dissented in that one ruling, while one abstained.
Tony Buzbee, Perry’s attorney, called the ruling a “long time coming,” and said the case should have never been brought in the first place.
“I said all along this case was foolishness and would be dismissed.”
Michael McCrum, the special prosecutor in the case, called the ruling “horrendous.”
“This is a situation where the Republican court carved out a special ruling to get Perry off the hook. It changes law for past decades and offers no laws for future courts to follow,” he said. “This is, from what I understand, a special ruling tailor-made for Rick Perry.”
Craig McDonald, executive director of Texans for Public Justice, the liberal-leaning watchdog group behind a complaint that led to the indictment, largely echoed that notion.
"A highly partisan court has handed Rick Perry a gift,” he said. “This decision is based on who Perry is rather than what he did.”
Terri Langford contributed to this report.
Disclosure: Tony Buzbee was a major donor to The Texas Tribune in 2012. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.