Jury Selection Begins for Tom DeLay's Money Laundering Trial

It only took five years to bring Tom DeLay to trial in Texas on state charges of money laundering and conspiracy. Jury selection begins today in Austin. In August, DeLay lost his bid to have the trial moved from the predominantly Democratic city.

From the Austin-American Statesman:

DeLay and two associates — Jim Ellis and John Colyandro — are accused by prosecutors of taking $190,000 in corporate money collected by a state political action committee DeLay started and illegally funneling it through the Republican National Committee in Washington to help elect GOP state legislative candidates in 2002. Under Texas law, corporate money cannot be directly used for political campaigns.

DeLay has one of the best attorneys in the country, Dick DeGuerin of Houston, who also is a good friend of mine. Dick says there's no crime and the charges are the result of a political witchhunt by former Travis County DA Ronnie Earle. [More..]

"If you can look at that indictment and figure out what it says was done wrong, you are a better man than I am," DeGuerin said.

This Austin-Statesman article from Saturday had a good recap of the facts at issue.

It sounds like DeLay, thinking he could talk his way out of an Indictment, has his previous lawyers arrange an "interview." He wanted to avoid indictment, because of the rule Newt Gingrich put in place, that any Republican indicted had to give up his leadership post. No way did DeLay want to be just an ordinary member of Congress:

In August 2005, with time running out on his criminal investigation because of the statute of limitations, Earle asked DeLay and his lawyers for a 30-day extension and suggested DeLay give his side of the story in a face-to-face meeting with prosecutors. DeLay agreed to the extension and the meeting. He reasoned that it was his best chance to avoid indictment, which he wanted to do at all costs.

That's because of a long-ago reform, championed by Gingrich when he became speaker of the U.S. House in 1995. Gingrich promised that any member of the Republican leadership would resign if indicted. It became a rule of the GOP House caucus, one that Democrats never adopted. That rule put DeLay's leadership post at risk.

DeLay made a mis-statement during the debriefing. He talked about it later on talk shows.

After he was indicted, DeLay complained to talk show host Rush Limbaugh that he mistakenly told prosecutors he knew about the $190,000 check before it was sent to the Republican National Committee.

"I misspoke one sentence — one sentence — and they have based all of this on one sentence," DeLay said. "They think that before the (Texas) check was cut and sent to the national committee, that I approved this check. I didn't know this went on until well after it happened," DeLay told Limbaugh.

The transcript the meeting is likely to be introduced into evidence, and it will be up to jurors how to interpret his answer.

The article also says the decision to indict DeLay was not unanimous among prosecutors in the office, but Ronnie Earle "made the final call." DeGuerin argued in pleadings Ronnie Earle engaged in grand-jury shopping and other grand juries refused to indict DeLay. From an AP article at the time:

DeLay was indicted Sept. 28 on a charge of conspiracy as a grand jury's term was expiring. But questions were raised about whether the law on which the indictment was based was in effect at the time of the alleged conspiracy.

Earle went to a second grand jury still in session, but that grand jury declined to vote an indictment. On Monday, a third grand jury indicted DeLay on money laundering charges.

In 2005, DeGuerin wrote in a letter to the DA that before being indicted, DeLay turned down a misdemeanor offer in the case.

The letter, which characterizes the offer as an attempt to coerce a plea from DeLay, accompanied a series of motions that DeGuerin filed in court. These include a motion for a speedy trial, a motion to dismiss the indictments for failure to allege wrongdoing by DeLay, and a motion seeking severance of DeLay's case from his co-defendants.'

DeLay did get a severance. His codefendants will be tried separately. Here's an article listing the witnesses each side plans to call.

It's been a while since I've thought about this case, but our Tom DeLay Indictment archive has 45 posts on the case from 2005 - 2006 by me, TChris and Last Night in Little Rock.

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    Welcome to our world Tom... (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by kdog on Tue Oct 26, 2010 at 09:58:52 AM EST
    thats what you get when you talk to prosecutors, ya silly rabbit...will people never learn?

    Power...its a helluva drug I guess, judgement goes out the window when you're jonesing for that power fix.

    like Ted Stevens (1.00 / 0) (#5)
    by diogenes on Tue Oct 26, 2010 at 12:25:25 PM EST
    The crime allegedly happened in 2002.  Starting the trial now a week before the election in 2010 smells like the Ted Stevens witchhunt.  You remember how that turned out

    This is Texas (none / 0) (#6)
    by ScottW714 on Tue Oct 26, 2010 at 12:51:04 PM EST
    Who exactly is going to be swayed that wasn't a month ago ?  It's not like there are any serious campaigns hinging on some 'independent' voters here.

    Are all trials against political figures going to be compared to the Stevens debacle from here on out ?  Just because Stevens conviction was overturned because of prosecutorial misconduct doesn't mean he wasn't guilty.

    As a resident of Tom's old district in Sugar Land, I can say that I haven't seen one mention of this in the MSM.


    This case has been around a long time. (none / 0) (#7)
    by Angel on Tue Oct 26, 2010 at 01:14:36 PM EST
    There are reasons it's just now getting to trial.  And the fact that the elections are next week have nothing to do with it.  Read up and learn all of the history of the charges and this case before you make a dumb comment.

    Could be worse for your boy... (none / 0) (#8)
    by kdog on Tue Oct 26, 2010 at 01:53:06 PM EST
    they coulda had him locked up for 5 years waiting for his day in court, instead he got to embarass himself on "Dancing with the Stars".

    But I hear ya...what happened to that right to a speedy trial thingy?  5 years is a long time to have felony charges hanging over your head....no case is that complicated.  

    The grand jury shopping ain't kosher either...the saying goes you can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich, when a prosecutor has gotta shop around, thats a good sign of a dogsh*t case.


    Appeals and pretrial rulings are the reasons (none / 0) (#10)
    by Angel on Tue Oct 26, 2010 at 02:17:15 PM EST
    for the delay.    

    Grnd jury shopping... (none / 0) (#13)
    by diogenes on Sat Oct 30, 2010 at 11:28:49 PM EST
    Grand jury shopping was one reason for the delay.  Not Delay's fault.  

    No, the grand jury indictment (none / 0) (#14)
    by Harry Saxon on Sun Oct 31, 2010 at 09:17:31 AM EST
    was made in 2005:

        Ex-Republican strongman DeLay on trial for dirty politics

    By Laylan Copelin
    Agence France-Presse
    First Posted 10:15:00 10/31/2010

    Filed Under: Politics, Crime and Law and Justice

    AUSTIN, Texas, United States--Tom DeLay, the once powerful and polarizing Republican leader known as the "Hammer" for his brass knuckles style, goes on trial Monday on charges of criminally crossing the line into dirty politics.

    The trial begins a day before US voters head to the polls for mid-term elections in which Republicans are expected to retake the House of Representatives and cut deeply into the Democrats' Senate majority.

    "I can't think of a worse time to try a political case," DeLay's lawyer, Dick DeGuerin said.

    The former US House majority leader from Texas is accused of laundering corporate money into donations to candidates during the 2002 elections, a pivotal contest that became the first step in DeLay's plan to redraw the state's congressional districts and tighten his grip on the leadership post by enlarging the Republican majority in Congress.

    By 2004 DeLay had accomplished all that, but a year later a Texas grand jury handed up the felony indictments arising from one transaction during the election.

    DeLay was forced to resign his leadership post because of the indictment. He retired from Congress, after 22 years, in the middle of his re-election bid in 2006.

    On Monday, a six-man, six-woman jury will hear opening arguments over whether what happened eight years ago was a crime or just politics as usual.

    Bill Miller, an Austin political consultant, said DeLay already has paid a steep price with his resignation.

    Click Me

    Please try to get the facts straight in the future, diogenes, or at least get some more oil for your lamp first.  :-D


    Oops (none / 0) (#1)
    by lentinel on Tue Oct 26, 2010 at 06:01:36 AM EST
    ...he mistakenly told prosecutors he knew about the $190,000 check before it was sent to the Republican National Committee.
    "I misspoke one sentence -- one sentence -- and they have based all of this on one sentence...

    He "misspoke"?
    He meant to say he didn't know about the check?


    That's the Michael Kinsley definition (none / 0) (#2)
    by Harry Saxon on Tue Oct 26, 2010 at 09:06:37 AM EST
    of 'gaffe':  When a politician accidentally tells the truth.  :-)

    I for one (none / 0) (#4)
    by Ga6thDem on Tue Oct 26, 2010 at 11:53:29 AM EST
    am glad he is out of the house. Whatever else happens to him I could really care less.

    good thing mr. delay has (none / 0) (#9)
    by cpinva on Tue Oct 26, 2010 at 02:07:23 PM EST
    excellent counsel. were he like so many others caught up in the machinery of the criminal justice system: indigent and of color. had this been the case, he would, most likely, be now entering his 5th year as a guest of one of TX's finest, 4 star penal institutions, as he awaited indictment.

    it'll be interesting to see how this finally plays out.

    At the very least I hope it costs him tons of (none / 0) (#12)
    by Angel on Tue Oct 26, 2010 at 03:05:13 PM EST
    money, but then he's probably got plenty stashed away from his questionable activities.