So Rick Perry was indicted yesterday for abuse of power and a few other charges which could amount to serious jail time for Perry. So, let’s look at just what the fuss was all about.
Jailhouse video after Rosemary Lehmberg’s arrest:
The arresting officers dashcam video can be seen here:
That’s Rosemary Lehmberg’s jailhouse video and subsequent dashcam arrest video where she was charged with DWI or Driving While Intoxicated. Rosemary was also the head of the Public Integrity office for Travis County as District Attorney. She is also a Democrat and Perry is a Republican. Some people say this indictment is about politics and payback or Texas Justice. I don’t know about how you feel about drunk drivers, but is is a fact that drunk drivers cause mayhem on an unprecedented scale. When you are drunk and you get behind the wheel of a vehicle, that vehicle becomes a weapon which can and often does cause massive traffic fatalities. In the dashcam video of the arrest she claims she had vodka sodas at a party, in the jail cam video she claims she was at a movie theater and only had a glass of wine, a clear and not very convincing lie.
Of course, Lehmberg claimed in this seemingly heavily edited jailhouse video that she wasn’t drunk, and, of course, she seemed pretty upset being restrained in a chair. Those restraints are for people who are violent towards officers at the jail. They are usually not meant for people who are mildly upset or who are pissed off while in the booking process. You have to be fighting mad, and fighting with officers before they will restrain you. I do note that she was asking to have the handcuffs removed from her while the officers made the wild claim that this request was somehow threatening. While it is standard practice to pull out the cameras to film those who the officers feel are causing a problem just in case someone sues, these officers seemed to relish the idea of filming Lehmberg in compromising positions, the chair restraints and cuffs, her repeated requests for a phone call etc. They knew who she was, they knew what was going to happen to her, and they seemed to relish that they had a big fish in their hands that they could do anything they wanted to do to her while she was there. And they did.
So if an official, especially one who is the District Attorney and Chief of the Public Integrity unit for the District Attorney’s office is caught breaking the law and or driving drunk, a charge she later pled guilty to, one would think that calls for her head would be widespread. There was a grand jury impaneled which raised this very question, but she was absolved of wrongdoing and allowed to remain in office. It isn’t a political thing to want someones head, no matter who they are or whom they work for when they drive drunk. People in public office have a higher standard to live by when they are put in positions of power. And “Public Integrity” to me means that you have to hold yourself to the highest standards, especially if you are the District Attorney. Driving drunk therefore erodes the public trust, and shows that you have zero integrity when it comes to your position.
Spending the morning at our usual breakfast dive, I had this very conversation with my other half about Lehmberg’s arrest, Perry’s indictment, and what Public Integrity is all about. After Lehmberg’s arrest Perry wanted Lehmberg gone from office. After all she was driving while drunk. The question that I faced this morning with my other half was, “Should the District Attorney and head of the Public Integrity Unit resign after being arrested for driving while intoxicated?” My feeling was yes, she should have quit her job and left in disgrace. Rick Perry, of course, thought the same way. He publicly stated that if she didn’t resign he would veto funding for the office for which Lehmberg worked. Once he followed through with that threat he allegedly broke the law. My other half stated that the call for her resignation was not justified simply because she was the District Attorney and head of the Public Integrity Unit. The alleged abuse of power by Rick Perry also was not justified, no matter how he felt about Lehmberg. She wondered if Rick Perry felt so strongly about Lehmberg, “Does he feel that any public servant who is arrested for DWI should resign from office?” Does Rick Perry have a public position of requiring all public officials who are arrested to resign?
My feeling was that Lehmberg should have been held to account for her actions. It was reported that she had a .28 blood alcohol level, which in Texas is close to 4 times the legal limit of .08. Texas has a long standing tradition about buckling up and driving drunk. The states motto for those who have been incarcerated in Texas used to be: “come to Texas on vacation, leave on probation.” It is a very rigid state, and one that Lehmberg knew very well. She knew her phone call could be withheld for 72 hours until it was allowed. She knew the system inside and out and how it was set up. Yet, she seemed to want privileges that few in Texas jails get.
The hard part about all of this is that I feel that anyone elected to the position of District Attorney and also the head of the Public Integrity unit has to live with integrity, and once they lose that integrity they don’t deserve the title or the job. Perry thought that way too, and the mistakes he seemed to make were voicing his concerns in a public way, and then voicing his demands for her head. When she didn’t go, Perry allegedly made a retaliatory move towards her and the office she worked for by cutting their funding.
So it’s really hard to say which lawbreaker should be held to account, the original lawbreaker, or the one who allegedly broke the law trying to remove her from office by cutting the funding of her public integrity office.