From his feisty public push-back to his bipartisan legal team, Texas Gov. Rick Perry is responding adroitly to his indictment on abuse-of-office charges, and may never see the inside of a courtroom — much less a cell, Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz and prominent criminal defense lawyer Sam Adam Jr. told Newsmax TV
"He's doing a good job, getting out in front of it, letting people know where he stands — and let the chips fall where they may," Adam, who is appealing the conviction of jailed ex-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, told "MidPoint" host Ed Berliner.
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Adam and Dershowitz both said Perry's indictment
— after he vetoed funding for a local prosecutor who wouldn't resign over a drunk-driving arrest — is an effort to criminalize routine hardball politics.
"There's no difference between using the threat of a veto to get the legislation you want and using the threat of a veto to try to get rid of somebody who had abused the public's trust by driving drunk and mouthing off to the cops," Newsmax contributor Dershowitz said.
The Aug. 15 indictment alleges that Perry essentially engaged in blackmail when he yanked funding for an investigative office run by Rosemary Lehmberg
, the Travis County district attorney who had refused Perry's call to resign after her DUI run-in with police.
Perry, considered one the GOP's presidential hopefuls for 2016, blasted the indictment
as "outrageous," and has used humor to show he's taking it in stride: his political fundraising committee, RickPAC, is selling "WANTED"/"GUILTY" T-shirts
bearing his and Lehmberg's mug shots.
The Republican governor also named a veteran Democratic operative, Mark Fabiani
, to his legal defense team.
"It's a brilliant, brilliant move," Dershowitz said of the hire. "Mark was my research assistant at Harvard, he was my assistant on the Von Bulow [murder] case and in several other cases. He is one of the smartest lawyers I know.
"He was also [President] Bill Clinton's lawyer and crisis adviser during the Monica Lewinsky matter," said Dershowitz. "If anybody I love were in trouble, I'd want Mark Fabiani on the case."
Adam also applauded Perry's "bipartisan"
But he said Perry still faces a serious challenge: "When somebody is charged with a crime, the vast majority of the population believe from the beginning that they're guilty."
That may go double for politicians.
"When you say 'politician' and you put 'corruption' behind it, people automatically have that feeling of, ' He must've done it.' They're going to have to overcome that in Texas," said Adam.
But he said Perry's case is different from the political corruption scandal that ensnared Adam's client, Blagojevich.
Where Democrat Blagojevich was convicted of a "quid pro quo" demand for campaign contributions in exchange for specific favors, Perry simply used his veto power as governor to punish a prosecutor who had behaved badly.
"That's a complete political action," said Adam. "It's not asking for money, it's not asking for private citizens to come forward and give money . . . He has a right to line-item veto that $7.5 million."
If the case does go to trial, Adam said Perry's task will be to demonstrate to jurors that "there's a big difference between politics and criminal activity."
Dershowitz said that the abuse-of-power statute under which Perry was indicted is "unconstitutional on its face," and that upholding a conviction on that basis "would basically make illegal almost any threat of a veto by any public official."
Still, he doubted it would come to that.
"I don't think this case is ever getting to a jury," he said. "But you never know in Texas."
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