Rick Perry's lawyers seek dismissal of charges

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

AUSTIN, Texas -- Attorneys for indicted Republican Texas Gov. Rick Perry formally asked a judge Monday to dismiss felony charges alleging that the possible 2016 presidential candidate abused his power with a veto last summer.

In a 60-page motion filed in state district court in Austin, Perry's high-powered defense team argues that the law being used to prosecute the longest-serving governor in Texas history is unconstitutionally vague.

They go on to claim that "attempts to convert inescapably political disputes into criminal complaints" shouldn't be allowed to go forward. Since being indicted on two felony counts more than a week ago, Perry has emphatically rejected the charges as a political ploy, often pointing to liberal pundits who have vocally questioned the charges. After turning himself in last Tuesday for booking and a mug shot, he pleaded "not guilty" to the charges.

Perry is accused of leveraging his veto power in June 2013 to try to oust a Democratic district attorney who was convicted of drunken driving.

"Texans deserve what their State's constitution guarantees: a Governor with the power to approve or disapprove of bills," reads the filing.

The filing was not unexpected. While Perry was in New Hampshire on Friday continuing his courtship of GOP voters for another potential White House run, one of his attorneys said the motion was imminent following a meeting in Austin with the Republican judge overseeing the case.

Michael McCrum, the special prosecutor, emerged from that meeting saying he remained confident in the charges.

Meanwhile, Perry has added an additional attorney to his high-powered legal team, CBS News has confirmed: Mark Fabiani, a former special counsel to former President Bill Clinton and deputy campaign manager for then-Vice President Al Gore during his 2000 presidential campaign. In a twist, that puts Fabiani on the same team as Ben Ginsberg, former President George W. Bush's lawyer during the Supreme Court case that decided the 2000 election. Ginsberg is also representing Perry.

"I'm proud to join Gov. Perry's outstanding team which has been assembled to fight back against this attack on the rule of law," Fabiani said in a statement. "As we move forward to protect the Texas Constitution and the First Amendment rights of any governor, I am confident this prosecution will be revealed to be contrary to the law and wholly meritless."

The governor cut off $7.5 million in state funds to the unit - which prosecutes public corruption in Texas - when Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg refused to resign following her drunken driving arrest.

Perry is charged with violating state laws related to bribery and corruption. His attorneys argue in the filing that the section of the law "is fatally vague and overbroad" and doesn't define what actions are legal on one hand and illegal on the other.

He is charged with abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public servant. If convicted, Perry could face a maximum 109 years in prison.

Perry's 2012 presidential campaign ended badly after he made several missteps, and he told business leaders in New Hampshire last week that he has yet to decide whether he will run again in 2016.

If he does, he promised to be more prepared than he was in 2012.

"I've spent a lot of time in preparation," he said. "That's not to say I've made a decision I'm going to run. I haven't. But the reason I don't choose to run will not be because I'm ill-prepared."

Perry's allies say that the legal charges have actually helped, not hurt him, and several high-profile Republicans who he might face in a 2016 nomination fight have backed him. His adviser in New Hampshire, Mike Dennehy, told CBS News last week that the number of people who signed up to attend a rally with him went "through the roof" after the indictment.