A day after Gov. Rick Perry’s attorneys asked a judge to excuse the governor from showing up to future pretrial court hearings in the criminal case against him, the special prosecutor in the case reacted sharply, saying a previous accommodation resulted in Perry making a “mockery” of the justice system.
“In my 30 years of practice, I’ve never had a defense lawyer show up and say, ‘Can my client just not appear for all these pretrial conferences,’” Michael McCrum told the American-Statesman and KVUE-TV on Tuesday. “Judges would laugh them out of the court.”
“My position is that he should just be in court,” McCrum said. Perry faces felony charges of abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public servant.
Yet McCrum, in a wide-ranging interview, said he would attempt to work within Perry’s busy travel schedule in coming months. The governor is preparing for a possible presidential run and has traveled several times this year to early 2016 primary and caucus states. In addition, he visited Asia this month, and next month he plans a tour of Europe to promote Texas economic development and to give a foreign policy address.
“I am unsure of Mr. McCrum’s motives in insisting on Gov. Perry’s appearance at routine status conferences where no evidence will be taken,” Perry attorney Tony Buzbee said Tuesday. “Mr. McCrum is a criminal defense attorney who daily represents a wide range of alleged criminals. He knows appearance at such routine hearings is typically waived by the prosecutor.”
Perry’s attorneys asked in a court motion Monday that Perry be excused from an Oct. 13 hearing, when he is scheduled to be in Europe, or, if the judge deems his appearance mandatory, asked that the hearing be moved to later that month.
State District Judge Bert Richardson, a San Antonio Republican appointed to handle the case, hasn’t ruled on Perry’s request.
“Mr. Perry should not be treated any differently than any other citizen accused of committing crimes,” McCrum said. “He should now face what other people face every time they walk into that courthouse.”
In the weeks following the indictment, McCrum’s relatively few public comments have been largely outsized by Perry and his lawyers, who have held multiple news conferences denouncing the charges and have filed several court motions seeking the case’s dismissal.
Perry is accused of threatening to withhold a two-year, $7.5 million appropriation to Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg’s office unless she resigned, following her drunken driving arrest last year. She didn’t resign, and Perry vetoed the money, which was destined for the district attorney’s Public Integrity Unit, which investigates ethics violations among state officials.
After a Travis County grand jury handed up the indictment last month, McCrum, instead of requesting an arrest warrant for Perry, issued a summons for the governor to appear, giving him the flexibility to set a time to turn himself in.
“He was given some special consideration when he was initially charged, and he showed that he made a mockery of our system of justice,” McCrum said.
Perry transformed his booking into the Travis County Jail into a campaign-like rally with speeches immediately before and after his mug shot was taken. Then, he posted a picture on Twitter of himself and his lawyers eating frozen custard at Sandy’s Hamburgers in South Austin after the booking.
Also Tuesday, McCrum responded to a decision last week by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals — the state’s highest criminal court — to revive contempt proceedings against him in an unrelated case.
McCrum is accused of telling a witness to “get lost for a while” and not be available to testify in the punishment phase of a trial.
McCrum argued prosecutors missed a deadline to bring the contempt charge, and the state 4th Court of Appeals agreed. But the Republican-dominated Court of Criminal Appeals directed the lower court to vacate its order.
“I think this matter that has been brought against me is wrong,” he said. “Substantively, I did nothing wrong in that matter. If the Court of Criminal Appeals wants me to face a hearing, I’ll face a hearing.”
McCrum’s comments also came a day after he announced that Austin attorney David Gonzalez would work with him on the Perry case.
“He’s got a good heart, he has a brilliant mind, he’s got a strong work ethic,” McCrum said of Gonzalez. “His character is one of wanting justice, a passion for justice in doing the right thing. I’ll take those character traits and skills any day.”
McCrum and Gonzalez will be up against Perry’s nationally renowned defense team, but McCrum said he isn’t deterred.
“I know I am doing the right thing,” he said. “Biblical history, if anything, tells us it’s not the numbers. It’s whether or not you are doing the right thing, and I feel and I believe that I’m doing the right thing.”
STATESMAN AND KVUE
This story is reported in partnership with KVUE-TV. See more of Tony Plohetski’s exclusive reports on MyStatesman.com and on KVUE.