Former Texas governor Rick Perry – the self-anointed chief GOP critic of Donald Trump -- got a piece of good news on Friday regarding a political felony case that has been hanging over his second bid for the Republican presidential nomination.
Back in August 2014, Perry was hit with two criminal felony indictments in Texas charging him with abuse of official power and coercion of a public servant. The charge of abuse of official capacity stemmed from Perry’s threat to veto funding for the Travis County District Attorney office’s Public Integrity Unit unless Democratic District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg agreed to resign.
Perry waved off the charges as a politically motivated stunt that would fall apart under court scrutiny. However, a Texas judge in November 2014 refused to toss out the two charges on technical grounds and Perry had to continue to explore a second bid for the White House with criminal charges hanging over him that potentially carried jail time if he was convicted.
On Friday, a Texas appeals court judge, Bert Richardson, dismissed the felony coercion charge against Perry, a big boost for the Republican who has been struggling to improve on his lowly showing in the polls in the crowded race for the GOP presidential nomination.
Richardson ruled that Perry’s First Amendment rights protected him from the “coercision of a public servant” charge. However, the judge denied Perry’s request to dismiss the “abuse of official capacity” charge.
Tony Buzbee, one of Perry’s lawyers, hailed the court ruling and said he expects the entire case to be dismissed once the trial begins. “The appeals court made clear that this case was questionable,” he said in a statement, according to the Texas Tribune.
Perry, who registered a modest four percent approval among Republican voters in the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll, got a lot of attention this week when he clashed with Trump.
Perry denounced the real estate magnate and reality TV star a “cancer on conservatism” who should be driven from the campaign and the party following Trump’s disparaging remarks about Sen. John McCain’s heroism during the Vietnam War era and his attacks on illegal immigrants as “rapists” and criminals. The high-flying Trump, who leads the GOP field with 22 percent to 24 percent of the Republican vote, responded dismissively and accused Perry of being a “hypocrite” because he once sought Trump’s support for his campaign.