The term of the Travis County grand jury ends Wednesday. Although the investigation into felony charges of illegal corporate spending during the 2002 election theoretically could continue through October, a last-minute burst of activity by prosecutors had defense lawyers speculating — in some cases fearing — the prospect of more indictments by Wednesday.
U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land, and Texas Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland, answered prosecutors' questions last month, but Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle recently called Texas Association of Business President Bill Hammond for a second visit.
Prosecutors also interviewed state Reps. Beverly Woolley, R-Houston, and Dianne Delisi, R-Temple, who served with DeLay on the board of the Texans for a Republican Majority.
Also, former Dallas lawmaker Bill Ceverha, the treasurer of that GOP committee, met for the first time with prosecutors.
In some instances, the people met with prosecutors because of the threat of being subpoenaed to appear before the grand jury.
"Now, for the first time, there is a general apprehension for everyone," said Austin lawyer Terry Scarborough, who represents Ceverha and Texans for a Republican Majority in civil litigation surrounding the case.
DeLay's Washington lawyer, Ed Bethune, was dispatched to Austin last week to size up the situation.
DeLay, Craddick and their allies all added lawyers who once worked for Earle to their defense teams, but even those closest to the district attorney could not predict what will happen this week.
"I wouldn't bet 50 cents on any outcome," said one defense lawyer, who asked for anonymity so as to not draw attention to his client. "You get paranoid at the end."
In recent days, defense lawyers trying to decipher Earle's actions have speculated privately that there is a difference of opinion among prosecutors on who else should be indicted.
There has even been speculation that the grand jury might be pushing prosecutors to do more, not less.
adding conspiracy charges to the indictments of Jim Ellis and John Colyandro has inspired relentless speculation.
After all, conspiracy charges suggest a bigger network than just the two operatives. Plus, it is no secret that the Speaker statute strictly limiting activities related to a Texas Speaker's race may have substantial free speech problems that could tie prosecutions up for years. On the other hand, criminal conspiracy may well take prosecutors to the same place but with fewer constitutional issues.
It may well be no more than the Austin-DC echo chamber, but major national news organizations are on alert and have contacted QR since first thing this morning, in case of an indictment of Majority Leader Tom Delay.
In addition, the mill seems convinced that there are as many as six additional indictments and that the recent parade of witnesses before the Grand Jury may be to lay groundwork for future perjury charges.