Perry pleads not guilty in abuse of power case
Texas Gov. Rick Perry has pleaded not guilty to charges that he abused his power with a controversial veto threat, as he vowed to fight and "prevail" in the case.
The not-guilty plea was entered in a brief "waiver of arraignment" filed in Travis County court late Tuesday.
The Republican governor also turned himself in Tuesday for processing at the justice complex. The governor was fingerprinted and had a mug shot taken before leaving a few minutes later.
Before entering the courthouse, he spoke to a cheering crowd.
"I'm here today because I believe in the rule of law, and I'm here today because I did the right thing," Perry said. "I am going to enter this courthouse with my head held high knowing that the actions that I took were not only lawful and legal, but right."
The moves come after Perry began assembling a high-powered legal team to defend him in the case, which Perry and his allies argue is politically motivated. Perry is facing charges of coercion and official oppression that carry a maximum sentence of 109 years in prison.
A grand jury in Austin, a liberal bastion in otherwise largely conservative Texas, indicted Perry on Friday for carrying out a threat to veto $7.5 million in funding for the state's public integrity unit after Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, a Democrat, refused to resign following a drunken driving arrest. The ethics unit is housed under Lehmberg's office.
The governor has emphatically stood by his veto and denied all wrongdoing. The judge overseeing the case, Republican Bert Richardson, decided against issuing an arrest warrant and instead granted a simple legal summons.
No one disputes that Perry has the power to veto measures approved by the Legislature, but his threat to do so before actually carrying it out prompted a complaint from a left-leaning watchdog group.
The grand jury met for months before handing down its indictment, and Perry's $450-per-hour defense attorney, David L. Botsford, was paid using state funds.
Aides said the case wouldn't prevent Perry from maintaining his packed upcoming schedule, which includes visits to the key presidential battleground states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina in the next two weeks. Perry also has a Thursday speech on immigration at the Heritage Foundation in Washington.
Perry's arraignment has been set for Friday morning, though a representative says Perry will not attend.
Fox News' Casey Stegall and The Associated Press contributed to this report.