AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A judge has decided not to issue an arrest warrant for Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a court official said Monday, meaning the Republican can continue traveling the country and gearing up for a possible 2016 presidential run despite being indicted on two felony counts of abuse of power.
Perry, who has been defiant in insisting he did nothing wrong, had planned to go ahead with a visit to three key early presidential battleground states in the next two weeks anyway.
On Friday, the Republican became the first Texas governor since 1917 to be indicted, and he's facing charges that carry a maximum sentence of 109 years in prison for carrying out a threat to veto funding for the state's public integrity unit. But Linda Estrada, a grand Jury clerk in Travis County, said that the judge overseeing the case decided against issuing an arrest warrant.
Instead, Judge Bert Richardson said Perry will receive a summons to appear which has not been issued yet. It won't be until Perry's defense attorney and the state set a date for him to appear in court.
It wasn't clear if Perry eventually was going to have to be booked, fingerprinted or have a mug shot taken. Meanwhile, the governor has tried to rally conservatives to his cause, saying the indictment is symbolic of government overreach.
"This is not the way that we settle differences, political differences in this country," Perry said in an interview with "Fox News Sunday." ''You don't do it with indictments. We settle our political differences at the ballot box."
Still, for Perry, who stumbled in his 2012 presidential campaign, the allegations could pose a distraction and complicate his attempts to gain a second look from Republicans in early voting states such as Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. The details of the prosecution and timing of any trial remain unknown, and it is unclear how Republican activists will respond to a presidential candidate who has been indicted.
The special prosecutor bringing the case against Perry, San Antonio-based Michael McCrum, was planning to meet Monday with Perry's defense attorney, David L. Botsford, and with Richardson, to begin discussing next steps.
No arrest warrant in the case means it's unclear when Perry might appear at the Travis County Courthouse, which is located just a few steps away from the governor's mansion in Austin.
Aides said Perry planned to maintain his public schedule, including a Thursday speech on immigration at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, and then a visit to New Hampshire next weekend. The governor is scheduled to appear at a slate of activities there: events in Portsmouth, Manchester and Nashua on Friday, followed by a rally Saturday in Stratham and Republican gatherings in Rochester and Chichester.
Later this month, Perry is expected at a larger Americans for Prosperity gathering in Dallas, which will also feature Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. Then he plans to be in South Carolina on Aug. 27-28 for appearances that include a college football game at the University of South Carolina against Texas A&M, Perry's alma mater.
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