AUSTIN, Texas — As prosecutors prepare to close their case in the money laundering trial of Tom DeLay, his attorneys continue to contend no proof has been presented that the former U.S. House majority leader committed any crime.
The prosecution was expected to question its final witnesses Wednesday before DeLay's attorneys begin presenting their case.
Prosecutors have called more than 30 witnesses and presented volumes of e-mails and other documents in their efforts to prove allegations that DeLay's political action committee illegally channeled $190,000 in corporate donations into Texas legislative races in 2002 through a money swap.
DeLay and his attorneys say no corporate money went to Texas candidates, the money swap was legal and the ex-lawmaker had little involvement in how the PAC was run.
DeLay, a once powerful but polarizing Texas congressman, has long denied any wrongdoing. He faces charges of money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering and could face up to life in prison if convicted.
During nine days of testimony over nearly three weeks, the most dramatic piece of evidence has been an audio interview in which DeLay says he knew beforehand about the money swap. DeLay says he misspoke in the interview with prosecutors and only found out about the transaction after it happened.
Most of the evidence has been circumstantial and hasn't directly tied DeLay to the alleged scheme.
"In that army of people working on the case, not a single soul has come up with any evidence that Tom DeLay called the shots on this deal. Right?" Dick DeGuerin, DeLay's lead attorney, asked a forensic accountant who told jurors on Tuesday that the ex-lawmaker's PAC referred to $190,000 it raised as corporate campaign contributions. Under Texas law, corporate money cannot go directly to political campaigns.
Marshall Vogt, a senior forensic analyst with the Travis County District Attorney's Office, said he didn't know how to answer the question.
DeLay and two associates — John Colyandro and Jim Ellis — are accused of illegally channeling corporate donations collected by DeLay's PAC in Texas through an arm of the Washington-based Republican National Committee. The money went to seven Texas House candidates in 2002.
Prosecutors allege the money helped Republicans take control of the Texas House. That enabled the GOP majority to push through a Delay-engineered congressional redistricting plan that sent more Texas Republicans to Congress in 2004 — and strengthened DeLay's political power.
Prosecutors have implied DeLay was the driving force behind the PAC and that the group started focusing on corporate dollars when it began having fundraising problems in the weeks leading up to the 2002 elections.
The criminal charges in Texas, as well as a separate federal investigation of DeLay's ties to disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, ended his 22-year political career representing suburban Houston. The Justice Department probe into DeLay's ties to Abramoff ended without any charges filed against DeLay.
Ellis and Colyandro, who face lesser charges, will be tried later.
DeLay, whose nickname was "the Hammer" for his heavy-handed style, runs a consulting firm based in the Houston suburb of Sugar Land. In 2009, he appeared on ABC's hit television show "Dancing With the Stars."
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