Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay is moving to the next round in his fight against criminal indictments in Texas, where he faces money laundering and conspiracy charges.
DeLay and two co-defendants were indicted in 2005 in connection with efforts to elect Republican state legislative candidates in 2002. Since then, pretrial arguments have been making their way through appellate courts.
On Tuesday, remaining questions to be decided before trial — such as whether to try the defendants separately and whether there was any prosecutorial misconduct — are before Senior Judge Pat Priest. No trial date has been set, and it wasn't clear whether Priest would rule immediately on the issues before him.
DeLay's attorney, Dick DeGuerin, says the former district attorney who originally pursued the case against DeLay, Democrat Ronnie Earle, was motivated by politics.
"Tom DeLay never should have been indicted," DeLay's attorney, Dick DeGuerin, said Monday. "This was a political indictment, and it was because he had been so effective as a Republican leader."
DeLay — once known as "The Hammer" for his heavy-handed style — learned just last week that the Justice Department was ending a probe into his ties to disgraced ex-lobbyist Jack Abramoff without filing any charges against the former congressman.
But he still faces the charges in Texas, where he John Colyandro and Jim Ellis are accused of illegally funneling $190,000 in corporate money through the Republican National Committee to help elect GOP legislative candidates in 2002. That year, Republicans won a majority in the Texas House of Representatives for the first time since the Civil War era, allowing the influential DeLay to engineer a GOP redistricting map.
The defendants contend they did nothing wrong in their dealings with the Texans for a Republican Majority political committee. The money that went to Texas Republican candidates from the RNC was collected lawfully from around the country, DeGuerin said.
The Texas charges cost DeLay his congressional leadership post and he eventually resigned from the U.S. House in 2006. Still, he has remained in the limelight and even did a stint on the television show "Dancing With the Stars."
Besides claiming that prosecutors behaved improperly and "wrangled an indictment" out of a grand jury in 2005 — an accusation prosecutors deny — defense lawyers contend their clients cannot get a fair trial in Democratic-leaning Travis County because of the heavy interest in the case. They want the trial moved elsewhere.
If convicted, the defendants could face five years to life in prison on the money laundering charge. Conspiracy to commit money laundering carries a possible two-year prison term.
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