October 21, 2005
Arraignment postponed

Tom DeLay's day in court has been pushed back while the presiding judge waits on a ruling to determine if he should be recused.

State District Judge Bob Perkins put all other motions in DeLay's case aside, saying he will ask Judge B.B. Schraub, the administrative judge for the 3rd Judicial District, to set a hearing on the motion to remove Perkins from the case.

"It seems to me that this is going to be continuing to be an issue any time there's a Democratic judge and a Republican defendant or vice versa. So we probably need to get some hearing on that by the presiding judge of the region," Perkins said.

DeLay, R-Sugar Land, has asked Perkins to be removed from the case because of his political donations.


[Travis County DA Ronnie] Earle after the hearing said he sees no reason for Perkins to remove himself.

"I think what this means is that if this judge had contributed to Crime Stoppers, that the judge then couldn't hear a burglary case," Earle said. "I think carried to its extreme, that's what this motion means, and I think that's absurd."

In the motion for recusal, DeGuerin listed 34 political donations totalling $5,185 made by Perkins over the past five years.

Schraub, the judge to hear the recusal motion, is based in Seguin, and has been the administrative judge for the region since 1990. He is a Republican. Three Republican and one Democratic governor have appointed or reappointed him to his job, his assistant said.

It was not clear how much the motion would lengthen proceedings in the case. The Texas congressman has said he wants a speedy trial.

Whatever. Far as I'm concerned, the longer the circus is in town the better.

Team DeLay attorney Dick DeGuerin took the opportunity to spread a little more fertilizer about the parties involved.

Attorney Dick DeGuerin of Houston said District Attorney Ronnie Earle wants to dismiss his motion as just partisan. DeGuerin noted in particular that Perkins has contributed to MoveOn.org, a group that is using political attacks on DeLay to raise money.

"Mr. Earle seems to think it's just a Democrat-Republican thing," DeGuerin said. "But I noticed yesterday that MoveOn.org, to which you have contributed, was selling T-shirts with Mr. DeLay's mug shot on it to raise money."

Perkins replied: "Let me just say, I have never seen that T-shirt, number one. Number two, I haven't bought it. Number three, the last time I contributed to MoveOn that I know of was prior to the November election last year when they were primarily helping Senator Kerry."

Perkins was referring to the help MoveOn.org offered to Sen. John Kerry in his 2004 campaign to unseat President Bush.

MoveOn.org denied it was selling any such shirts, and issued a statement that said, "DeGuerin has either bad information or lied in court."

I confess, I never really got into the Durst trial, and I don't know any real specifics about the rest of his body of work, so I have to ask: Is DeGuerin always this profligate with the BS, or is this case somehow exceptional? I know that the PR was is at least as important as the courtroom battle, but outright falsehoods are usually a bad idea. Kudos to the Chron for linking directly to the response; usually, all one gets is a summary or a one-sentence quote. Think Progress has more, noting that the AP took DeGuerin's bait uncritically.

Lindsay Beyerstein is in Austin to witness the proceedings, and she was able to get some pictures, including a couple of snaps of DeLay making his entrance. Please note this one, which I think pretty conclusively demonstrates that however toothy DeLay's grin may have been in his mug shot, it won't actually matter to those who want to incorporate his image into a message. Link via Amanda, who is also chronicling the events in Austin.

Finally, I do think the funniest thing that has been or will be said about this whole spectacle is the following bit of unintentional hilarity penned by the Statesman.

Seven county sheriff's deputies were assigned to maintain order in the 70-seat courtroom. The crowd, made up largely of reporters, was calm.

Well, that's a relief! We all know how raucous those newsies can get at an arraignment. I hope the deputies will carry pepper spray when the pretrial motion hearings begin, just in case things really get out of hand.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on October 21, 2005 to Scandalized! | TrackBack

I don't know. If this judge *did* contribute to an ultra-lefty group like MoveOn.org, I'd be *very* skeptical about the ability of a political arch-enemy of this group getting a fair trial.

If nothing else, it would make any convictions obtained in a court he presided over very vulnerable to being set aside on appeal.

Frankly, while I suppose it would be a violation of a judge's first amendment right to support what political group he wanted, I personally think it's bad judgment to do so, as it would put any politically-loaded case that came his way suspect in the eyes of many, and it doesn't completely pass the smell test.

Posted by: Tim on October 21, 2005 2:45 PM

Judges in this state are by definition political creatures, Tim, since they all have to run for election. Believe me when I say that pretty much all of them have given to or received from various politicos and PACs, many of which are more out there than MoveOn. So I think this is a bad precedent to set. I mean, why should we expect that a Republican judge would be any more fair? Poke around and I'll bet you'll find more than a few who've donated to one of DeLay's PACs. Those are our only choices, whether you like it or not.

It's a Republican judge who will rule on the recusal motion. Seems to me everyone should be able to accept what he says.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on October 21, 2005 3:42 PM

I agree Tim and those who want DeLay to have a real trial will agree if they think about it. Once the trial is being presided over by a less partisan, probably non-Austin based judge, then a conviction would be legitimate. It takes away a talking point from DeLay.

Posted by: Joe on October 21, 2005 3:45 PM

...yes, DeGuerin is always this chatty with the BS...

Posted by: becky on October 21, 2005 4:27 PM