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Perry's Mug Shot

Governor arraigned on two felony charges: Twitter goes dewy-eyed

By Richard Whittaker, 9:37AM, Wed. Aug. 20

Gov. Rick Perry: The mugshot retweeted around the world
Gov. Rick Perry: The mugshot retweeted around the world

Update: Perry has pleaded "not guilty" to both felony counts relating to abuse of power and coercion of a public servant. Perry's lawyers have waived his previously scheduled Friday arraignment at the Travis County courthouse.

At 5pm yesterday, Aug. 19, Gov. James Richard "Rick" Perry surrendered himself to Austin Police Department on two felony charges relating to criminal abuse of his office. From the Twitter response, you'd think he'd checked in for a glamour shot.

These are not light allegations. The first, abuse of official capacity, is a first degree felony that carries a sentence of 5-99 years. The second, coercion of a public official, is a third degree felony and carries a maximum sentence of 10 years.

However, unsurprisingly, the event turned into yet another sideshow, courtesy of Perry's legal team/press department (which has previously promised not to fight this in the media). After yet another in the now endless series of press briefings (already far more than Perry manages in the average legislative session), he continued to resmear Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg over her DWI conviction, rather than address the substance of the charges against him. He then retreated to Sandy's Hamburgers for an frozen custard. The GOP twitterverse then exploded with the #IStandWithRickPerry hashtag, as supporters turned the image into a proxy presidential campaign poster.

Undoubtedly, Perry's PR/charm offensive has won the first round, with multiple stories quoting the same national-level blowhards (such as former Obama White House adviser David Axelrod) undermining the indictments. However, the push back locally has begun, with stories about why the man who is now savaging the whole legal system is still A-OK with the beyond-shaky conviction of Cameron Todd Willingham, while Wayne Slater of the Dallas Morning News, amongst others, picked up on Progress Texas pointing out that Perry was seemingly fine with Republican DAs busted for drunk driving.

Implicit in all of the allegations is that this is all just a political conspiracy emanating from Democratic Travis County. The problem for Perry's supporters (at least the ones that let themselves be impeded by facts) is that the special prosecutor, Michael McCrum, and the judge that appointed him, Judge Bert Richardson, are both out of San Antonio, and that Richardson is actually the GOP nominee for State Court of Appeals. That may well make the grand jury itself arguably the easiest target, but then that would be predicated on the idea that Travis County is monolithically liberal Democratic (it's not, and neither was the jury). Some jurors are already firing back that, once the public and the court sees the evidence that was presented to them, opinions of Perry's actions will change greatly. Until then, it seems they will keep enduring the smear campaign coming from the right, underscored by the #IStandWithRickPerry hashtag on Twitter. Juror Jana Bessin told the Houston Chronicle, "It's too bad. But I guess that's his side's job – to really spin it."

Note: At time of publication, the flavor of frozen custard purchased by Perry at Sandy's was still unknown.

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