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Perry moves ahead with ’16 courtship despite case

  •  Rosemary Lehmberg, Austin’s top prosecutor, was arrested for drunk driving in April 2013 and later pleaded guilty
  • Video from her arrest and booking shows her being abusive toward officers and repeatedly demanding they call the sheriff
  • Perry demanded Lehmberg step down after the arrest and said he would veto funding for her office, but Lehmberg refused 
  • Lehmberg ran a public corruption unit that pursued charges against Republicans 
  • Perry is charged with abusing his authority by de-funding Lehmberg’s office 

Michael Zennie for MailOnline

07:23 GMT, 18 August 2014

18:09 GMT, 18 August 2014



Before Texas Governor Rick Perry’s criminal indictment, before national attention turned its focus to the state capital Austin and Perry’s 2016 presidential ambitions – Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg was arrested for drunk driving.

Lehmberg, a Democrat, is one of the most powerful prosecutors in the state. She had a blood alcohol level of 0.239percent – nearly three times the legal limit – when she was arrested in April 2013.

Jailhouse video shows her drunk, belligerent, threatening officers, kicking the door of her cell and repeatedly trying to pull rank in the Travis County Detention Center.

Perry called for Lehmberg, an elected official, to step down after her arrest. She refused and he responded by vetoing funding for her office, which operates an ethics unit that investigates public corruption. On Friday, a grand jury charged Perry, a Republican, with abusing the power of his office.

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Busted: Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg was arrested for drunk driving in April 2013. She had a blood alcohol level of 0.239percent – nearly three times the legal limit 

Combative: In jail, Lehmberg was belligerent and verbally abusive to jail guards. She can be seen here kicking the door to her cell

Officers put a spit mask on Lehmberg, normally reserved for prisoners who spit on jail guards (left). She was also strapped into a chair that immobilized her

Jail guards say Lehmberg was so combative that they had to put her in a restraint that immobilized her hands and feet. They also put a spit mask over her face

Videos from Lehmberg’s arrest are not new to Texans, but the indictment against Perry calls new attention to the prosecutor’s behavior after she was booked into jail on April 12.

‘Y’all better do something quick or y’all are the ones that’s gonna be in jail, not me,’ she tells officers who are searching her.

She repeatedly yells at jailers to ‘call Greg,’ a reference to Travis County Sheriff Greg Hamilton. 

At one point, when an officer tells her that she’s been arrested for drunken driving, she shrugs and says, ‘That’s y’alls’ problem, not mine.’

Lehmberg eventually pleaded guilty, but it is Perry who could be sent to prison for up to 99 years.

On Friday, a grand jury indicted the governor on two felony counts, abusing his official capacity and coercing a public servant. The charges stem from the political maneuvering that came after Lehmberg’s arrest. 


The legal basis for Governor Rick Perry’s felony indictment comes from the fact that he was exerting influence on an elected official.

After Rosemary Lehmberg, who is the elected District Attorney of Travis County, was arrested on drunk driving charges, Perry publicly demanded that she step down.

He threatened to veto funding for Lehmberg’s office, which operates a high-profile unit that investigates official corruption.

When Lehmberg didn’t resign, Perry followed through with his threats. 

Perry’s attempts to force Lehmberg to step down led to his indictment. Lehmberg remains in office after spending nearly a month in jail. Her term expires at the end of this year.

Perry and his Republican allies – and even a few Democrats – have called the indictment politically-motivated. 

The veteran prosecutor immediately announced she would stay in office until her term ended.

Perry, a Republican who is exploring a second run for president, called on Lehmberg to step down and threatened to veto state funding for her office if she didn’t. He then acted on his threats and cut off funding to her office – which among other things pursues ethics investigations against Texas officials. 

Lehmberg was responsible for pursuing corruption charges against former U.S. House Speaker Tom DeLay and other Republicans.

Perry, who will soon face his own time in the Travis County lockup, has condemned the indictment, calling it a violation of the ‘rule of law’ and claiming it is politically motivated. 

‘This is not the way that we settle differences, political differences in this country,’ Perry told ‘Fox News Sunday.’

‘You don’t do it with indictments. We settle our political differences at the ballot box.’

He stood by his calls for Lehmberg – who remains in officer being being sentenced to 45 days in jail – to resign. He said that she was ‘abusive’ to jail staff and cited her extremely high blood alcohol level.  

Defiant: A grand jury found Texas Governor Rick Perry abused his power when he demanded that Lehmberg step down and then cut off funding to her office. He has denounced the charges

Video from the Travis County Sheriff’s Office shows Lehmberg being uncooperative and belligerent almost from the time she was pulled over on April 12 after swerving into a bicycle lane. 

She repeatedly demands that the officer call the sheriff, At one point she says, ‘He’s not going to let me sit in jail all night. That’s crazy.’

In the video, jail officers and sheriff’s deputies tell her that they have spoken with Sheriff Hamilton and that he instructed them to treat her like any other drunk driving suspect. 

When she repeatedly refuses to cooperate with officers, they place her in a restraint, shackling her arms, legs and hands. They place a spit guard over her face. Lehmberg denied spitting at officers.

Records show she remained in the restraint for more than two hours – including while her blood was drawn for a blood alcohol test. 


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