Rick Perry's Illegal Trouble

What the Rick Perry indictment really means: Is 109-year sentence threat a sham — or a true danger?

What the Rick Perry indictment really means: 109-year threat a sham?

Rick Perry glasses
Rick Perry: Improving his eyesight or eyeing the presidency? NBC Nightly News/ NBC.com

Texas Gov. Rick Perry has been indicted on two felony counts, for abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public servant. A grand jury ruled against Perry for his alleged efforts to force Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg to resign.

Special prosecutor Michael McCrum of San Antonio announced the indictment on Friday, saying he was "ready to go forward" in prosecuting a case against the governor.

Perry is accused of using his power to get Lehmberg, an elected official and a Democrat, to resign after her arrest for drunk driving last year. Lehmberg's office oversees the Public Integrity Unit. Lehmberg was arrested for drunk driving in April 2013 and served a 45-day sentence. Perry vetoed $7.5 million in state funding after she refused to resign. She is still in office.

 Perry is accused of using his power to get Travis County District Attorney Rosemary  Lehmberg, an elected official and a Democrat, to resign.

When Perry threatened to withhold funds, watchdog group Texans for Public Justice filed a complaint.

The first count, abuse of official capacity, says the Governor misused government property. The second count says that he misused his power by threatening Lehmberg, a threat under which he could have benefited.

"On or about June 14, 2013, James Richard "Rick" Perry, with intent to harm another, to-wit Rosemary Lehmberg and the Public Integrity Unit of the Travis County District Attorney's Office, intentionally or knowingly misused government property," begins Count 1 in the indictment.

"Beginning on or about June 10, 2013 and continuing through June 14, 2013, by means of coercion, to-wit: threatening to veto legislation that had been approved and authorized by the Legislature of the State of Texas to provide funding for the continued operation of the Public Integrity Unit," said Count II.

If found guilty, Perry could be face up to 109 years in prison. He'll surrender to the Travis County Jail where he will be fingerprinted and have a mugshot taken. According to the Associated Press, his defense attorney David L. Botsford is being paid $450 per hour with state funds.

Perry, who will leave office in January and is not seeking re-election, has been traveling around the country wearing black-framed glasses as a prelude to another Presidential campaign. 

Perry advisor Ray Sullivan described the indictment as "typical Travis County liberalism," even as Democratic officials such as Gilberto Hinojosa, president of the Texas Democratic Party, called for the Governor to step down from office.