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Texas Governor Pleads Not Guilty to Abuse of Power Charges

  • VOA News

Texas Governor Rick Perry speaks after being booked at the Travis County courthouse in Austin, Aug. 19, 2014.

Texas Governor Rick Perry speaks after being booked at the Travis County courthouse in Austin, Aug. 19, 2014.

One-time U.S. Republican presidential candidate and current Texas Governor Rick Perry has formally pleaded not guilty to charges of abuse of power.

A grand jury indicted Perry last week on allegations that he threatened to cut funding to a state office that investigates wrongdoing of public officials to coerce the Democratic district attorney - who ran the office - to resign.

Before he was fingerprinted and photographed Tuesday, Perry insisted he did nothing illegal. He said as governor, he has veto power and the constitutional right to speak his mind free of political interference.

Perry is the longest governor in Texas history and a possible Republican presidential candidate in 2016. He carried out his threat and cut off funding last year for the state's public integrity unit.

The unit was run by a Democratic country district attorney, Rosemary Lehmberg, who pleaded guilty to drunk driving but refused to step down. Texas Democrats accused Perry of using the veto threat to force Lehmberg to resign so he could appoint a Republican political ally to take her place.

If convicted, Perry faces as much as 109 years in prison. But some legal experts believe the case against him is shaky.

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