Dershowitz 'Outraged' by Perry Indictment

Sunday, 17 Aug 2014 09:51 AM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz calls himself a "liberal Democrat who would never vote for Rick Perry," but he's still "outraged" over the Texas governor's indictment Friday on charges of abuse of power and coercion.

The charges are politically motivated and an example of a "dangerous" trend of courts being used to affect the ballot box and politics, he told Newsmax on Saturday.

"Everybody, liberal or conservative, should stand against this indictment," Dershowitz said. "If you don't like how Rick Perry uses his office, don't vote for him."

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On Friday, the District Attorney's office in Travis County, Texas, filed its indictment against Perry charging he overstepped his powers by threatening to veto, and then vetoing $7.5 million in funding for the office's Public Integrity Unit after District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg refused to step down after her conviction for drunken driving.

Perry said Saturday he stands by his veto, and slammed the indictment against him as outrageous.

"We don't settle political differences with indictments in this country," the Republican governor said in a brief news conference Saturday afternoon. "It is nothing more than an abuse of power — and I cannot and will not allow that to happen."

Perry's supporters are backing his decision, saying that he was well within his rights under the state Constitution to veto the funding, while opponents say it's another example of how he abuses the power of his office.

"This is another example of the criminalization of party differences," said Dershowitz, a prominent scholar on United States constitutional law and criminal law who writes the "Legally Speaking" column for Newsmax. "This idea of an indictment is an extremely dangerous trend in America, whether directed at [former House Majority Leader] Tom DeLay or [former President] Bill Clinton."

Further, Dershowitz said, such indictments are something that's done in totalitarian countries and should not be done in the United States.

In such countries, "if you don't like them, you indict," Dershowitz said. "In America, you vote against them...this should be up to the voters. There is no room in America for abuse of office charges, and this has to stop once and for all. This is a serious problem."

And indicting a politician, rather than fighting back through a ballot box, "is so un-American."

Dershowitz also told Newsmax Perry was well within his rights when he vetoed the money for Lehmberg's office, as he "saw a drunk serving as DA" who "shouldn't be enforcing criminal law."

Dershowitz believes Perry will be acquitted, and the indictment will become an embarrassment to those involved.

Perry is often named as a potential candidate for the GOP nomination in 2016, and has opted not to seek a fourth term as governor of Texas. Dershowitz said he hopes the legal charges are resolved long before the presidential election campaign cycle begins.

"It's just ridiculous the extremes some prosecutors will go to," when they seek criminal charges in retribution for actions that they don't agree with politically," Dershowitz said.

He's not alone among liberals questioning the Perry indictment, reports Business Insider, with pundits including former Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod, former Clinton and Obama administration strategist Jonathan Prince, Vox's Matt Yglesias, and New York Magazine's Jonathan Chait all tweeting that they do not agree with the DA's decision to indict the governor.

Axelrod called the indictment "sketchy."

And Prince tweeted that the indictment "seems nuts":

ThinkProgress, a liberal-oriented news site, also questioned the indictment, saying Perry's attorneys "may have a point" when arguing that Perry acted according to state law.

"Though the state legislature probably could limit this veto power in extreme cases — if a state governor literally sold his veto to wealthy interest groups, for example, the legislature could almost certainly make that a crime — a law that cuts too deep into the governor’s veto power raises serious separation of powers concerns." ThinkProgress wrote.

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