Here's the fuller story on the new DeLay indictments.
A new Travis County grand jury hurriedly reindicted U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay on a charge of conspiring to violate state election laws and added two charges related to money laundering Monday after DeLay's lawyers challenged the validity of an indictment returned last week.
Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle's office described the reindictment as procedural, but DeLay attorney Dick DeGuerin portrayed it as an effort to correct what he described as an embarrassingly flawed indictment against the Sugar Land Republican.
"Apparently, no one cracked a book before they issued that first indictment," DeGuerin said. "This is a mess. This looks like Keystone Kops."
Earle offered little comment or explanation of the new indictments, and refused to take calls from the Houston Chronicle.
"This indictment consolidates previous charges against John Colyandro and Jim Ellis ... and adds Congressman DeLay as a party defendant to money laundering," said a statement issued by Earle's office.
DeGuerin said the new indictment was returned after he filed a motion to dismiss the original indictment against DeLay. The original indictment alleged DeLay was involved in a conspiracy to violate state election laws in a scheme to convert corporate money into cash that was available for 2002 Republican state House candidates.
DeGuerin said the problem with that indictment was state law was not changed to make the conspiracy indictment apply to the state election laws until 2003 — a year after the supposed violation. He said the quick turnaround with a new grand jury showed Earle's case against DeLay was improvised.
"It proves a district attorney can lead a grand jury around like a bull with a ring through its nose," DeGuerin said.
Two criminal defense and election law experts interviewed by the Chronicle said Earle's original indictment of DeLay is likely to be upheld by the courts.
University of Texas law Professor George Dix said he wasn't sure why a new indictment was necessary because the Penal Code in 2002 made it a crime to conspire to commit any felony.
Dix said it was a felony in 2002 to use corporate money to try to influence the outcome of an election.
He said the fact the law was changed in 2003 to specifically include the election code under conspiracy should be irrelevant. "I don't see the necessity for the 2003 law," he said.
Austin attorney Buck Wood, who represents losing Democratic candidates in a civil suit against corporations that contributed to TRMPAC, called the new charges a "belt and suspenders indictment. It means you don't take any chances."
Wood agreed with Dix that the conspiracy charge already was covered by the penal code in 2002 but also noted that all nine members of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which would review any convictions, are Republicans.
"With the Court of Criminal Appeals, it is probably not a bad idea to go ahead and have all your bases covered," Wood said.
DeLay may not have seen the worst of it yet. Sources tell TIME that while Earle was closing in on DeLay from Austin, Texas, a federal investigation into the spreading scandal around disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, accused with Michael Scanlon (a former press secretary of DeLay's) of bilking their Indian-tribe clients out of $66 million, has begun lapping at the edges of the former majority leader's operation. A former Abramoff associate who was questioned by the FBI in August says, "They had a lot of e-mails, a lot of traffic between our office and DeLay's office." Many of those exchanges involved lavish travel by DeLay arranged by the lobbyist but requested, the e-mails suggest, by aides in DeLay's office. (House members are allowed to accept gifts under limited circumstances but not to solicit them.) Says the source: "There was nothing I saw that hit DeLay personally, but there was a lot of questionable stuff that was going on with his staff. 'Tom wants this. Tom wants that.' Was it really him or just the staff that was being aggressive?" DeLay's office wouldn't comment on the Justice Department investigation, and neither would the FBI.
Finally, as I suspected, DeLay's frontal assault on the documentary The Big Buy has been a huge boon to the filmmakers. From an email I got from Jim Schermbeck:
It's been a very busy five days. ABC, CBS and CNN have called and we're negotiating appearances on morning shows and even maybe Nightline with Ted. We were the objects of scorn on FOX and Rush and countless blogs. Sundance has called and at least two companies with a track-record of theatrical releases for docs want to talk to us. In short, Tom DeLay has been "bery bery good" to us.
(My apologies for the title. It just came to me, and I couldn't resist.)Posted by Charles Kuffner on October 04, 2005 to Scandalized! | TrackBack