May 12, 2005
Judge to rule in June on TRMPAC dismissal request

State District Judge Bob Perkins has heard the arguments from lawyers for Jim Ellis and John Colyandro that charges against them stemming from the TRMPAC corporate fundraising of 2002 should be dismissed, and will issue his ruling on June 27. Some of their arguments are, well, novel to me.

Colyandro is accused of illegally accepting corporate money in 2002 to influence GOP elections to the Texas House.

Colyandro and Ellis also face a money-laundering charge on an accusation that they ran $190,000 through the Republican National Committee to turn illegal corporate cash into candidate-eligible donations from individuals. That charge carries a maximum possible sentence of 99 years.

"It's not fair this man is facing 99 years in prison," said Ellis lawyer J.D. Pauerstein, of San Antonio.

Pauerstein said a civil lawsuit against Ellis might be appropriate but not a major felony. Pauerstein said the money-laundering statute also is limited to cash transactions, but Ellis delivered a check from TRMPAC to the RNC.

Colyandro lawyer Joe Turner told Perkins that his client had never run a political committee before and relied on the advice of lawyers for what would be legal or illegal. "It really is unfair to prosecute him," Turner said. "He was a novice in this area."

Regarding the 99-year sentence, I actually have some sympathy for that. That would be disproportionate to the crime in question were Ellis and Colyandro to be convicted. I fail to see, however, why that would be grounds for quashing the indictment. Lots of crimes carry penalties which an objective observer might consider to be excessive. But isn't that a legislative issue? Wouldn't it be a bit, um, activist, of Judge Perkins to declare that the possibility of a long jail sentence overrides the merits of the indictment? And if he does, I can't wait for defendants in drug-possession cases to start making the same argument.

The argument about a check as opposed to cash is ridiculous on its face, so I won't waste any time on it. And the bit about Colyandro being a naif who was only doing what the lawyers said was OK is just precious. All of a sudden ignorance of the law is an excuse? If he got bad legal advice, he's certainly got grounds for a malpractice suit, but not a dismissal.

Finally, as for vagueness, if that 1998 TEC opinion, not to mention plain old common sense aren't good enough, I can't help you. Apparently, the defendants' lawyers are happy they've been taken seriously for now. We'll find out how seriously next month.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on May 12, 2005 to Scandalized! | TrackBack

Dude, where's my dignity?

99 years for breaking the law. Guess someone, once upon a time, took illegal campaign money as a serious crime. I say take them to the max; if they broke a law, they should serve the time.

Dems should really pick up on this. They are squirming and look like the over-reaching, power hungry, arrogant hacks they are. Front and center, GOP, these are your guys.

Stand beside them, and guide them. . . . from the penthouse to the big house.

Posted by: Red Dog on May 12, 2005 3:36 PM