Senior Judge Pat Priest said he had been prepared to rule Tuesday on DeLay’s motions to quash the indictments against him. But after three hours of legal arguments from defense attorneys and prosecutors, Priest said he was “a little bit confused.”
Priest gave lawyers another week to file briefs and said he would rule the following week. Priest told DeLay’s lawyer Dick DeGuerin he realized DeLay wanted a quick trial but that the case was not the only one pending before him.
“If I rule against you (on the motions to quash the indictment), I doubt very seriously we’re going to get the case to trial before the first of the year,” Priest said.
The key arguments centered on whether the state conspiracy laws and money laundering laws applied to the state election code during 2002, the year of the alleged offenses. The men are accused of engaging in a scheme to get around state restrictions on the use of corporate contributions in campaigns for elective office.
Prosecutors argued that changes in state law after 2002 clarified that the conspiracy and money laundering statutes applied to the election code. DeLay’s lawyer Richard Keeton said changes in law made by the Legislature in 2003 and 2004 clearly show the statutes did not apply to the election code in 2002.
The defense also argued that the corporate money raised by the DeLay-founded Texans for a Republican Majority, TRMPAC, was legal. They said state law restricts only how the money can be spent.
Assistant District Attorney Rick Reed argued that state law defines expenditures and contributions to a political committee differently. He said a corporation can legally make an expenditure for the administration of a committee, but he said the $600,000 in corporate money raised by TRMPAC was in the form of contributions prohibited by law.
The crucial money involved a $190,000 donation of corporate money TRMPAC made to the Republican National Committee shortly before the RNC gave $190,000 in money from individuals to seven Texas House candidates.
Priest frowned throughout the prosecutors’ presentation and peppered them with questions, but he gave little indication that he was favoring DeLay’s side.
Priest later spoke with the lawyers about future hearings and a trial, as if that was likely to occur.
The judge said if he rules against DeLay, Colyandro and Ellis, he will hold another hearing in December on motions involving allegations of prosecutorial misconduct and DeLay’s request to move the trial out of Travis County.
Priest did not put a gag order on lawyers, but he told them he would report them to the State Bar for discipline if he read about them speaking ill of the citizens of Travis, Fort Bend or any other county in Texas. He said he did not want the lawyers “poisoning” the potential jury pool.
If that means the end of all this “liberal Travis County” baloney, I can stand waiting another fortnight.
The Hotline blog said yesterday that “a variety of sources close to the majority leader are leaning into the idea that it’s quite possible judge Pat Priest will throw out the felony indictments against him”. Apparently, their optimism was misplaced. Today, the word is that potential successors to DeLay as Majority Leader are marshalling their forces in anticipation of battle. Poor Tom. Even if he wins, he may well lose.
On a side note, the Daily DeLay reminds us that this story is not the only one to feature The Hammer’s name in its headlines. That other story is even worse news for DeLay and other Congressional Republicans, especially Bob Ney.