Rick Perry pleads "not guilty" to felony charges

File: Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks to the press before turning himself in to authorities at the Blackwell-Thurman Criminal Justice Center on August 19, 2014 in Austin, Texas.

Stewart F. House, Getty Images

Texas Gov. Rick Perry has pleaded "not guilty" on two felony charges that he abused his power, the San Antonio Express-News reports. He was indicted last Friday.

The governor has also waived his arraignment, which had been set for Friday.

Perry turned himself in Tuesday afternoon to be booked and have his mug shot taken at the Travis County Justice Center. In a news conference after his booking, he called the felony counts "baseless political charges."

"This indictment is nothing short of an attack on the constitutional powers of the office of governor," Perry said prior to being booked. "There are important fundamental issues at stake. And I will not allow this attack on our system of government to stand. I'm going to fight this injustice with every fiber of my being. And we will prevail. We'll prevail because we're standing for the rule of law," he said.

The prosecutors allege that Perry abused his powers by calling on Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg to resign after she was arrested for and pleaded guilty to drunk driving in April 2013. When she did not step down, Perry vetoed the $7.5 million in funding for her office.

Several members of the grand jury told the Houston Chronicle that, despite Perry's suggestion, the charges weren't motivated by politics.

"We were asked to serve, we attended eight sessions over the course of five months, we listened to hours of evidence and we formed opinions, and those opinions were not motivated by politics," juror Scott Hillman told the Chronicle. "They were simply motivated by our understanding of the facts as applied to the law."

He called Perry's comments "disrespectful" to both the process and the jurors, who "took our role very, very seriously."

Another juror told the paper that they expected public opinion of the case to change once the prosecution's evidence comes out.

"There was nothing political at all," the juror said.

Perry has highlighted support from some liberal corners of the political world to back his case that the indictment is unfounded.

He has noted several times that even David Axelrod, a former adviser to Mr. Obama, called the indictment "pretty sketchy" on Twitter. Republicans have been quick to defend him as well.

And the New York Times, making clear they are no fan of Perry's governing tactics, said Tuesday that his prosecution is wrong.

"Gov. Rick Perry of Texas is one of the least thoughtful and most damaging state leaders in America, having done great harm to immigrants, abortion clinics and people without health insurance during his 14 years in office. But bad political judgment is not necessarily a felony, and the indictment handed up against him on Friday -- given the facts so far -- appears to be the product of an overzealous prosecution," the paper wrote in an editorial Tuesday.

  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.