It's an important day for Gov. Rick Perry. In addition to it being his 32nd wedding anniversary, Thursday marks Perry's first court appearance to face charges including abuse of power and coercion.
It's also the day we found out that, according to the NBC affiliate in Philadelphia, Perry is a former WWE wrestler. (Perry being a wrestler is not true, of course, but the tweet did stay up for almost three hours before NBC10 removed it.)
But we digress. This is serious stuff and it's time to get serious about it. Perry did appear for the first time Thursday at a pre-trail hearing after being indicted on charges stemming from a 2013 incident involving Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg. Lehmberg was arrested and pleaded guilty to DWI in April 2013, after being pulled over in Austin with an open bottle of vodka in the passenger seat. She was also caught on tape during her booking behaving in a rather cringe-inducing manner.
In the wake of the Lehmberg's arrest, Perry vowed to veto funding to the Public Integrity Unit, a branch of the DA's office. "Despite the otherwise good work the Public Integrity Unit's employees, 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," Perry said at the time.
You may be thinking, "But she spit at the camera, so Perry's reaction makes sense." Prosecutors believe Perry's motive for blocking funding was far more sinister than just being out of respect for common decency.
Instead, Prosecutors allege that Perry was not acting in the public's interest, but instead engaging in a calculated political move to bring down Travis County DA Lehmberg (a Democrat) whose office convicted former House Majority Leader Tom Delay (a Republican) on money laundering charges.
They also believe that Perry was trying to distract the DA's office away from investigating the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas. According to KVUE, "The investigation involved the alleged misuse of $56 million intended for cancer research that was suspected of going into companies with investors who supported Perry." For a detailed explainer, we highly recommend KVUE's in-depth and very well done analysis of the charges.
And so the show begins. At 10 am Thursday, Perry and his team walked into Blackwell-Thurman Criminal Justice Center on West 11th Street ready for battle. According to the Texas Tribune, the defense's first course of action will be to try to get the case dismissed on a technicality. Perry's lawyer Tony Buzbee did just that, spending part of Thursday morning arguing that the oath given to prosecutor Michael McCrum was incorrect, and therefore the case should be thrown out.
With stunts like this (and a cast of characters with Charles Dickens-esque names), this could easily go from case to spectacle.