Hopefully not his last, but that’s up to the judge at this time.
Gov. Rick Perry appeared in court Thursday to watch his attorneys, armed with plenty of theater, try to convince a judge that the prosecutor pursuing abuse-of-power charges against him was improperly sworn in.
“Why do we raise what some people say are technicalities?” asked Perry defense attorney Tony Buzbee, his voice booming as he guided Visiting Judge Bert Richardson through an elaborate PowerPoint that featured an enlarged copy of the Texas Constitution. “Because [San Antonio lawyer Mike] McCrum is attempting to prosecute a sitting governor.”
In his first court appearance since he was indicted Aug. 15 on two felony counts, Perry sat at the defense table quietly, occasionally whispering with his attorneys or rocking in his chair. Buzbee and co-counsel David Botsford made their case that McCrum, who is an appointed special prosecutor in the case, took his oath of office before signing an anti-bribery document required of such prosecutors.
That sequence was out of order under the rules dictated by the 1876 Texas Constitution, Buzbee said.
As a result of this timing error, Buzbee argued, it’s “game over.” McCrum has no authority to prosecute the governor, he said, and therefore the indictment he secured is invalid.
“It’s there and it’s in black and white,” Buzbee said. “You must first sign your oath saying, ‘I have not taken any gifts.’ It’s a very important sequence.”
McCrum, a criminal defense attorney from San Antonio who was once tapped to fill the U.S. attorney job there, countered on Thursday that there was nothing improper about the oath-taking. He was sworn in, he said, telling reporters after the hearing: “I’m not shying away from the facts. My position is that it just doesn’t negate my authority.”
Buzbee described challenges he and Botsford faced getting their hands on the paperwork detailing McCrum’s appointment — and the repeated times they said they asked the Travis County district clerk’s office for it.
McCrum countered that they were in the courthouse, just in a file in a courtroom.
“All of these documents were available for public inspection,” McCrum said. “There’s no question I took an oath.”
Richardson, a Republican who was elected to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Tuesday, is in the odd position of having sworn in McCrum, and now deciding on issues related to his oath. He asked the lawyers on both sides whether they wanted a different judge to hear the motion, but they declined.
Richardson initially predicted Thursday’s hearing could be as short as 15 minutes. Instead it lasted close to two hours. Toward the end, Perry’s lawyers asked whether they could file more documents with the court on one of the issues before it.
“If you want a quick ruling, I could make one,” the judge told Buzbee. “If you want to bury me in paperwork, then I have to wait to get it to read it. My intent would be to read anything that either side wants me to look at.”
We’ll see if the urge to delay is greater than the urge to get a ruling, which according to the stories is expected next week. Place your bets on the outcome in the comments. Trail Blazers has more.