Rick Perry's Defense Attorney Once Tried To Turn Him In To The FBI
Credit: Gage Skidmore
July 22, 2014

Small world, isn't it? Gov. Rick Perry's being investigated by a grand jury, and what does he do? He hires as his defense attorney a guy who once tried to rat him out to the FBI. Via Murray Waas at VICE:

In April, as a Texas state grand jury began hearing testimony for a criminal investigation of Governor Rick Perry of Texas, Perry sought to defend himself by hiring a high-powered attorney named David Botsford. That raised some eyebrows, to say the least. Perry, a conservative Republican, had hired a politically active progressive Democrat as his defense attorney. But within Austin’s tight-knit legal community, Perry’s hiring of Botsford made perfect sense. Austin, where the grand jury is seated, is a rare progressive enclave in the reddest of states—and the majority of the grand jurors now determining Perry’s fate are Democrats.

Perhaps Perry’s supporters had reason to be concerned about his choice of attorney. An investigation by VICE has found that Botsford, in the late 1990s, had secretly provided what Botsford claimed was potentially damning information on Perry to the FBI in the hope of instigating a federal criminal investigation of his now client. At one point, Botsford even described himself as an informer for the FBI in regard to the information he was providing to the agency about Perry and spoke of furtive meetings with FBI agents. He strongly expressed his belief that he had brought the Feds hard evidence of an allegedly illegal stock-trading scheme involving Perry. In 2011, the Huffington Post even ran a false and erroneous account that Perry had been targeted by a federal criminal investigation, based in part on information Botsford provided to the website.

In short, the man now entrusted with preventing a grand jury from bringing criminal charges against Perry once worked just as hard to put Perry in jail.

Botsford did not respond to several phone messages and emails seeking comment for this story. At the time of publication a spokesman for Perry did not respond, either. A secretary for Botsford told VICE: “Mr. Botsford is a very busy man. Do you know he is currently representing the governor of Texas? If you really wanted an interview, you should have contacted him like six weeks ago.”

Perry has good reason to want to hire the most able—and loyal—attorney to defend him. A special prosecutor, Michael McCrum, impaneled the state grand jury to hear evidence as to whether Perry had broken any laws while using the powers of his office to curtail the funding of the anti-corruption unit of the Travis County district attorney’s office at a time when it was investigating an agency of the Perry administration. The Travis County Public Integrity Unit had been investigating whether officials at a Texas anti-cancer state agency had violated any laws by showing favoritism in the awarding of grants to wealthy political supporters and contributors to the campaign of Governor Perry.

In June 2013, Perry vetoed a $7.5 million appropriation by the state legislature to fund the Travis County Public Integrity Unit. The veto of the funds for the anti-corruption unit was apparently legal and within Perry’s power as governor. But Perry had allegedly offered to withhold the veto of the funds in exchange for the resignation of the Travis County district attorney, who had been arrested on DUI charges. Unsuccessful in his attempt to unseat the district attorney, he pushed the veto through while simultaneously offering to reinstate the funding for the unit if the district attorney resigned. Because of Perry’s pressure on the district attorney and the anti-corruption unit, and his offer of a quid pro quo of forgoing a veto of the funding or reinstating it in exchange for her resignation, the grand jury is investigating whether Perry allegedly abused his oversight and misused his office in what may constitute illegal coercion and bribery of a public official.

“I’m investigating the circumstances surrounding the veto and whether the governor’s actions were appropriate or not under the law,” McCrum, a former federal prosecutor for the Western District of Texas who is now a prominent San Antonio defense attorney, said in a recent phone interview. “My duty is to look at all of the laws and determine whether any were broken by the governor or anyone else.”

Solomon Wisenberg, who worked as a federal prosecutor alongside McCrum in San Antonio, said McCrum is a “stellar person and attorney in every sense of the word.” Wisenberg and others described him as meticulous and thorough—a prosecutor “who will leave no stone unturned.”

Botsford is similarly highly regarded among his peers as one of Austin’s best defense attorneys. Colleagues and adversaries alike describe Botsford as “bookish” and “congenial” and someone who works zealously but within the rules to defend his clients—descriptions echoed about his temporary adversary, McCrum.“I think if Governor Perry had chosen a Republican lawyer from Houston or Dallas, that would have been a mistake,” Ben Florey, a former Travis County assistant district attorney, said. “David knows the nuances and practices of law in Travis County.”

Although experts say that Botsford apparently did not break any ethical rules if he did not inform Perry of his covert meetings with the FBI, Wisenberg said he believed that Botsford should have told Perry about his actions: “I think you should disclose something like this this to your client. If I were the client, I would certainly want to know.”

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