AUSTIN, Texas, Feb. 24 (UPI) -- Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry was spared a trial and potential prison sentence Wednesday after an appeals court dismissed two charges of abuse of office.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals dismissed the felony charges in separate rulings. On one count, Perry was accused of withholding funding for the Travis County, Texas, office of District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg in 2013 unless she resigned her position after a DWI conviction. The count was dismissed with two of eight judges dissenting.
Perry faced potential life imprisonment, though white-collar offenders typically receive probation.
The second count, involving coercion of a public official, was also dismissed. Perry's lawyers argued his actions against Lehmberg's office was within the powers of the governor. Two of the judges disagreed, and one abstained. A potential 10-year prison term was at stake.
The rulings Wednesday ended an 18-month controversy which affected the last days of Perry's 14 years a governor, as well as his unsuccessful presidential campaign.
Glenn Smith of Progress Texas, a liberal political action committee, called the decisions a "black day for the law in Texas."
"The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals tossed out decades of precedent to grant a special privilege to Rick Perry, allowing him to escape a trial before any evidence against him was heard," he said.