Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Austin Jury Nails Tom DeLay In 2002 Money Laundering Case

After many years of investigations both state and federal, he could face life in prison

Austin - It took 11 years of constant criminal inquiries to do it, but a jury in Texas finally convicted former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay on charges he illegally transferred corporate contributions to legislative candidates in 2002.

Formerly the most powerful Republican in Congress, Mr. DeLay now faces up to life in prison.

After 19 hours of deliberation, jurors returned guilty verdicts today on charges of money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

The charges stem from a complicated series of transactions between Mr. DeLay's political action committee, corporate donors, and Republican candidates for legislative offices during the election year of 2002.

Prosecutors charged the former congressman from Sugarland with using his political action committee to illegally channel $190,000 in corporate donations into Texas legislative races through a “money swap.”

The defense was unable to create a reasonable doubt in the mind of even one juror that the transactions were illegal.

Mr. DeLay and his attorneys maintained no corporate funds went to Texas candidates and the money swap was legal.

Though famed Houston criminal defense attorney presented much evidence to the contrary, a district judge ruled there would be no need for a change of venue from the liberal jurisdiction of Travis County due to massive and prolonged pre-trial publicity during federal investigations of Mr. DeLay's alleged ties to lobbyist Jack Abramoff and illegal dealings with Indian tribes seeking federal influence in casino gambling complaints on reservations.

Mr. DeGuerin introduced a poll that showed that in the Austin area, Mr. DeLay had name recognition on a par with former President George W. Bush and a negative approval rating of 44%.

Asked what it proved, Mr. DeLay joked after the Court's unfavorable pre-trial ruling to leave the prosecution in Austin, “It proves I can't run for public office.”

Mr. DeLay also faced numerous civil suits filed by Democratic Congressional Committee executive Patrick Kennedy alleging various improprieties, all of which were dismissed along with federal criminal investigations earlier this year. Federal prosecutors and Justice Department attorneys, counsel for the House Ethics Committee and Congressional leadership had asserted that they could find no case for his conviction on criminal charges.

He told interviewers before the Austin trial began that the political landscape has changed, that in today's atmosphere, “They want to vilify you, put you in prison, bury you and dance on your grave.”

Mr. DeGuerin's pleas to jurors echoed that sentiment. He said more than once that if it hadn't been for former Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle, the case against Mr. DeLay case would have been forgotten long ago.

In comparison with the case of U.S. Representative Charles Rangel, Mr. DeLay said his case was “completely different” because, “I was never guilty.” Mr. Rangel, in comparison, he said, had admitted that much of what he had done was wrong in not filing his tax returns and reporting his income on a timely basis.

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