US & Canada

Texas Governor Rick Perry indicted for abuse of power

Texas Governor Rick Perry answers questions from the media after taking an aerial tour over the fertilizer plant explosion site in West, Texas in this 19 April 2013 file photo. Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Governor Rick Perry has been spoken of as a possible future Republican presidential candidate

The governor of the US state of Texas, Rick Perry, has been charged by a grand jury with abusing his powers of office.

A special prosecutor said there was evidence the Republican had broken the law by using a funding veto in a bid to force a local prosecutor to resign.

The potential presidential hopeful was investigated for cutting funds to a state anti-corruption unit run by District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg.

He becomes the state of Texas's first indicted governor in nearly a century.

Governor Perry, who has been in office since the year 2000, says he has violated no laws.

The 63-year-old faces two counts of abuse of power and coercion related to his decision to veto $7.5 million (£4.5 million) in funding for the Public Integrity Unit run by the office of the Travis County district attorney last year.

Lengthy possible sentences

Governor 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," the indictment read.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Travis County Special prosecutor Michael McCrum announced the indictment on Friday

Ms Lehmberg, a Democrat, had earlier pleaded guilty to drink driving charges, but had rejected Governor Perry's calls to resign.

"The veto in question was made in accordance with the veto authority afforded to every governor under the Texas Constitution," the governor's general counsel said after the announcement was made.

Rick Perry: From Democrat to Republican

Image copyright AP

•March 1950: Born in Paint Creek, Texas

•1972: Graduated from Texas A&M University

•1972-77: Spent five years in the US Air Force

•1984: Entered political life when elected to the Texas House of Representatives as a Democrat

•1988: Chairman of the Al Gore campaign in Texas

•1989: Joined Republican Party

•1998: Lieutenant Governor of Texas

•2000: Texas Governor under GW Bush presidency

•2013: Announces retirement from the governor's position

•2014: Indicted by grand jury on charges of abuse of power

Profile: Rick Perry

"We will continue to aggressively defend the governor's lawful and constitutional action, and believe we will ultimately prevail," Mary Anne Wiley added.

The special prosecutor, Michael McCrum, called up numerous witnesses to argue his case that the governor had broken the law.

Announcing his veto in 2013, Governor Perry said of the Public Integrity Unit: "I cannot in good conscience support continued state funding for an office with statewide jurisdiction at a time when the person charged with ultimate responsibility of that unit has lost the public's confidence."

The Texans for Public Justice, which filed a complaint in the case, said "the grand jury decided Perry's bullying crossed the line into law breaking".

Abuse of office can carry punishments of between five to 99 years in prison, while coercion of a public servant carries sentences ranging from two to 10 years.

Governor Perry is the longest-serving governor in the state's history.

His recent movements between key Republican battleground states is seen by analysts as laying the groundwork for a possible presidential run in 2016.

Mr Perry announced that he would retire from the Texas governor's office instead of seeking a fourth term in July 2013.

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