AUSTIN (KXAN) — Gov. Greg Abbott suggested he may end up using his pardon powers for Austin police officers indicted after protests two years ago.

Abbott released a statement Wednesday morning extending his support to the Austin Police Department after the Travis County district attorney charged 19 officers for their response during the May 2020 racial justice protests. The indictment documents reviewed by KXAN showed they’re accused of harming a total of 10 people during the chaos of the protests. Each of the officers faces two counts of aggravated assault by a public servant.

“Time will tell whether the accusations against the courageous Austin police officers is a political sham,” Abbott’s statement read. “Time will also tell whether I, as Governor, must take action to exonerate any police officer unjustly prosecuted.”

The governor praised the job that Austin police did two years ago.

“In Austin, law enforcement officers defended the state Capitol from criminal assault, protected the Austin Police Department headquarters from being overrun, cleared the interstate from being shut down, and disrupted criminal activity in areas across the city,” Abbott said. “Many officers were physically attacked while protecting Austin. Those officers should be praised for their efforts, not prosecuted.”

All 19 officers are now out on bond. Fourteen of them were released on bonds set by a judge at $1. There are no conditions for the officers’ bonds either, but they will be on administrative leave within the department, performing duties like answering 311 calls. Because of the COVID-19 court backlog, one of the officers’ attorneys predicted trials will not likely begin for at least a year.

The Travis County District Attorney’s office sent KXAN the following response Wednesday afternoon to Abbott’s statement:

“Unlike the Governor, we believe that no one is above the law, and that our communities are safer when people see and believe that is true. In these cases, Austin police officers indiscriminately fired deadly weapons into crowds of people. Many of the people hit were innocent bystanders and they suffered severe and lasting injuries. Our investigation into this matter continues. Safety and accountability are our priority, not political talking points.”

Austin Police Chief Joseph Chacon responded immediately after the indictments were announced last week, saying he was “extremely disappointed.”

Abbott’s statement in support of Austin police also comes days before the early voting period ends in the Republican gubernatorial primary, where he’s facing several GOP challengers.

Governor’s pardon process

It may be too early in the legal proceedings to know the outcomes of these officers’ cases, but here’s how a pardon from the Texas governor would work.

According to guidance from the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, the governor may grant a full pardon only if the board recommends it first. A pardon, however, is not available for those in cases involving treason or impeachment.

Members of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles are appointed by the governor and approved by the Texas Senate for six year terms.