In his mugshot taken Tuesday at the Travis County Courthouse, Gov. Rick Perry sports that sly grin we've all come to know so well.
Perhaps that's because Perry thinks he's winning the public relations war that's erupted over his indictment. Following his indictment Friday on felony counts of abuse of power and coercion of a public servant, Perry called the charges "partisan political threats" that "rip away at the very fabric of our state's constitution." Tony Buzbee, Perry's lead defense attorney, later called the indictment "nothing more than banana republic politics."
On Tuesday, ahead of Perry's scheduled mugshot and fingerprinting, RickPac, the governor's political action committee, actually began soliciting contributions, reminding us how this all started: how Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg got drunk, drove around, got caught, and threw a tantrum in jail; how Perry threatened to withhold $7.5 million in funding from the Travis County DA's Public Integrity Unit (which just so happens to investigate public corruption cases) following Lehmberg's arrest; and how Perry actually followed through on that threat and vetoed the funds when Lehmberg refused to step down.
After his booking, Perry reportedly greeted a throng of cheering supporters outside the Travis County Courthouse, vowing to "fight this injustice with every fiber of my being."
"I'm here today because I believe in the rule of law," Perry told the crowd. "I'm here today because I did the right thing."
It's way too early to definitively tell whether Perry's indictment amounts to more than just partisan politics. If the prosecutor appointed to investigate the complaint filed against Perry gives us any indication, there might be more to the charges than meets the eye. Michael McCrum, a former cop and prosecutor under the George H.W. Bush administration, simply doesn't have the reputation of a guy swayed by partisan whims. "He's very fair-minded and balanced, the kind of guy who would prosecute something only if he thinks the evidence is there," Gerald Reamey, the professor who taught McCrum at St. Mary's University law school, told the Dallas Morning News. "When I think of overzealous prosecution, he is not someone who comes to my mind."
We don't yet know what evidence was heard behind the grand-jury doors, and we won't unless Perry's case goes to trial (or unless someone in the media gets an awesome leak). Presumably, Perry's high-powered defense lawyers will do everything they can to keep this as far away from a trial as possible.
So for now, go back and watch Lehmberg's embarrassing arrest video, stare at Perry's remarkably unsettling mugshot, and laugh, or weep, at the fact that this is what politics has become in the State of Texas.
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