The Rick Perry Indictment is Textbook Malicious Prosecution

Outsiders were stunned by the August 15 indictment of Gov. Rick Perry by a Travis County Grand Jury, but they shouldn’t have been.  The common perception that Texas is solidly or uniformly “red” is mistaken. Yes, for the past 16 years, Texas voters have elected only Republicans to statewide office, and since 2002 the GOP has controlled both houses of the state legislature, but the partisan divide in the Lone Star State is sharp and highly polarized. In 2012, Mitt Romney trounced President Obama by 16 points statewide, but over 40% of the Texas electorate is resolutely “Blue.”  There are pockets of liberal Democrats throughout the state, mainly in the large cities of Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio, but Travis County (encompassing Austin) is the epicenter of the Liberal Political Establishment in Texas, which thrives on the flagship campus of the University of Texas, in the halls of the Legislature, and in the ultra-liberal media organs based there: Texas Monthly, Texas Tribune, and the Austin American-Statesman. Democrats control Travis County and the City of Austin, as thoroughly as the GOP dominates statewide offices. And Texas liberals—frustrated by more than a decade of electoral impotence—seeth with hatred at the symbol of Republican hegemony: Gov. Rick Perry, who has served longer, at 14 years, than any governor of any state in U.S. history.

Since 1982, the Democrat-controlled Travis County District Attorney’s Office has received state funding to manage the “Public Integrity Unit,” which has jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute political corruption by elected officials statewide. (It is odd that a local district attorney, rather than the state Attorney General, has this responsibility.)  Travis County politics ensure that the PIU is used as a bludgeon against Republican officials.  The notoriously partisan former District Attorney Ronnie Earle used the PIU to bring bogus charges against then-state Treasurer (and later U.S. Senator) Kay Bailey Hutchison and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, both Republicans. In 2009, Earle was succeeded as District Attorney in Travis County by Democrat Rosemary Lehmberg, who was arrested for drunk driving in Austin in a widely-publicized incident in April 2013. Her blood alcohol level when arrested was .23%, three times the legal limit.  She refused to resign and instead pleaded guilty to DWI and served her 45 day jail sentence while continuing to hold office. Imagine the district attorney, behind bars! The public was appalled not only by her arrest, but her boorish and abusive behavior while in custody.

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