Texas' Perry says criminal case has not affected White House plans

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 28, 2015 1:44 PM

By Jon Herskovitz

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - Former Texas governor Rick Perry said a criminal prosecution against him for abuse of power has not affected his decision on whether to run for the presidency and pledged on Wednesday to fight the charges against him.

A Texas judge on Tuesday denied a request from Perry's lawyers to throw out two charges filed against the Republican politician seen as a potential candidate for the party in the 2016 presidential race.

When asked if the case will affect his possible White House run, Perry said: "No, we are going to continue on."

"We are moving along as we intended to," Perry told a news conference in Austin, adding he expected to make an announcement on his political plans around May or June.

Perry's lawyers said they have filed paperwork to appeal the judge's decision and expect a ruling on their motion in the next 30 to 60 days.

Perry was indicted in August by a grand jury in Travis County, a Democratic stronghold in the heavily Republican state, with abuse of official capacity, a first-degree felony, and coercion of a public official, a third-degree felony.

If convicted of first-degree felony, he could face from five to 99 years in prison.

The charges relate to what many see as a threat in 2013 to veto $7.5 million in funding 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.

The former governor, who stepped down this month after 14 years in the post, said he acted within the powers granted to him under the Texas Constitution.

"The prosecution’s case amounts to the criminalization of politics," he said. Prosecutors said he illegally threatened the district attorney, using his authority on state funding to pile pressure on her.

Perry has been trying to portray himself as the victim of a partisan political prosecution, a move analysts said could gain him some traction with Republican primary voters.

But the prospects of a prolonged trial could hurt him in the battle to win support from deep-pocketed political donors who see the court case clouding any presidential run, analysts said.

Perry dropped out of a gaffe-filled campaign for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination but has been attempting a political comeback.

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)