AUSTIN, Texas — A special prosecutor leading the felony abuse of power case against Texas Gov. Rick Perry argued Friday that it deserves to be heard by a jury, not thrown out on constitutional grounds.
In three court filings, Michael McCrum rejected arguments by Perry's defense team that the law being used to prosecute the Republican governor and possible 2016 presidential candidate is vague and being too broadly applied.
Perry has filed two motions asking the presiding judge, Bert Richardson, to declare the case unconstitutional, arguing that he within his rights as governor. In more than 100 pages of briefs, his attorneys said the matter was purely political and raised a string of objections.
McCrum, who responded with about 90 pages of his own Friday, said Perry was no different than any other defendant and his case should go to trial.
Referencing Perry attorneys' specific assertion that the matter was "injecting the judiciary into a political dispute," McCrum wrote: "The wonderful thing about the jury system is it's not subject to any person's control."
The governor was indicted by an Austin grand jury in August on charges of abuse of his official powers and coercion of a public servant. If convicted, he faces a maximum 109 years in prison.
Perry is accused of leveraging his veto power to try and oust a Democratic district attorney whose office oversees the Public Integrity Unit. Perry eventually vetoed $7.5 million in state funds to the unit — which prosecutes public corruption in Texas — when Rosemary Lehmberg refused to resign after a drunken driving arrest.
"In Mr. Perry's view, he could never be prosecuted in connection with a threat or promise made in connection with his power to veto," McCrum wrote. "Surely, this cannot be true."
McCrum's motions came a day after Perry made his first court appearance, sitting stoically as his attorneys argued during a heated pretrial hearing that the case should be quashed on a series of technicalities — including whether McCrum was properly sworn in as special prosecutor.
Richardson plans to rule next week on the technical challenges. He has yet to hold a hearing on the constitutional merits of the case.