DeLay Money Laundering Case May Finally Be Headed To Trial

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Five years after he was charged with conspiracy and money laundering in an alleged scheme to funnel corporate money into the 2002 Texas elections, former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay may soon stand trial after a ruling by a state appeals court cleared perhaps the final remaining obstacles in the case.

And his lawyer tells TPMmuckraker DeLay couldn’t be happier with the state of the case.

“He wants to go to trial. He’s been wanting to go to trial from the very beginning,” says Dick DeGuerin, the high-profile Texas defense attorney who is representing DeLay. “There’s no evidence by any stretch of the imagination that could convict him.”DeLay and the two other men allegedly raised $190,000 in corporate money in Texas through a fundraising committee, Texans for a Republican Majority, and sent it the Republican National Committee, which in turn distributed the money to candidates in Texas, where corporate donations are banned.

Overturning a lower court Wednesday, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled in a case brought by DeLay’s two co-defendants, John Colyandro and Jim Ellis, clearing the way for the case to move forward. The Austin American-Statesman reports:

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals unanimously ruled that the lower state 3rd Court of Appeals erred when it accepted the co-defendants’ arguments that the money laundering law did not apply to them because the funds involved were checks, not cash. The all-Republican court, in effect, said the lower court acted prematurely.

The state’s highest criminal court also dismissed the defendants’ constitutional challenge that Texas’ law banning corporate donations was too vague or overly broad to be understood.

In an interview this afternoon, DeGuerin eagerly launched into his theory of the case: “The money that was collected in Texas from corporations did not go to any individual campaigns in Texas. That money was sent to the Republican National Committee, where those kind of contributions are permissible, and the Republican National Committee sent it to states that allow such contributions. At the same time the Republican National Committee sent to Texas a similar amount that had been collected from individuals, in other words lawfully collected. It’s not the same money, so there was no illegality in the beginning.”

DeGuerin said there’s a status conference in the case set for August, but he has asked the judge to move it to an earlier date. It’s also possible that one of DeLay’s co-defendants could appeal in federal court, which could push things further down the road.

The lightning-rod prosecutor who brought the charges in 2005 and who was accused by DeLay of being a partisan, Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle, has since left office. His successor, Rosemary Lehmberg, is now handling the case.

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