Five years after indictments, Tom DeLay gets his day in court

by Michael Diaz Jr. on October 26, 2010

Former United States House of Representatives Majority Leader, Tom DeLay—noted as a polarizing politician throughout the Bush years—will finally get his day in court next month to defend five-year-old charges of money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Appeals of pretrial rulings have repeatedly slowed down the case.

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

Though the case should be tried on evidence, divorcing politics from the trial will be impossible. The very nature of the charges implicates how politics in this country works.

DeLay and his defense attorney Dick DeGuerin maintain that the charges are a result of a political witch-hunt. The senior judge handling the case has ruled that DeLay can get a fair trial in Austin Texas, one of the most Democratic cities in one of the nation’s most Republican states. Testimony is set to start on the eve of Election Day.

In addition to the criminal charges in Texas, a separate federal investigation is looking into DeLay’s ties to disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff. After representing the suburban Houston district for 22 years, DeLay was forced to step down as majority leader and to eventually resign his seat.

I think prosecutors will have a tough time proving their case, and if politics makes its way into the trial, that will favor the defense. They better not try to just prosecute this case by telling jurors he’s dirty with his association with Jack Abramoff or other unsavory characters. They have to do it with the evidence, and I don’t think they’ve got it.

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