Texas appeals court agrees to consider reinstating conspiracy charge in DeLay case
Wednesday, September 13th 2006, 9:40 am
By: News On 6
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) _ The state's highest criminal appeals court said Wednesday it would consider reinstating a conspiracy charge against former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, further delaying his felony money laundering trial.
A Travis County grand jury indicted DeLay and two political consultants last year on charges stemming from Republican fundraising during the 2002 legislative races.
A state district court judge later threw out one of two conspiracy charges. Prosecutors asked the appeals court to reinstate the dropped charge, and the court said Wednesday that it would consider that request.
Judge Pat Priest said he would proceed with DeLay's trial when the appeals process has ended.
DeLay stepped down as majority leader after the charges were filed and announced his resignation from Congress a few months later. He and other Texas Republicans have accused prosecutor Ronnie Earle, a Democrat, of conducting a political vendetta.
``It's just another bump in the road,'' DeLay's attorney, Dick DeGuerin, said Wednesday. ``I thought they would just refuse to get involved but at the same time, I'm not really shocked by it.''
Earle did not immediately return a phone call from The Associated Press.
Both sides will be given time to file their arguments with the Court of Criminal Appeals, which will then set a date for oral arguments. A ruling is not likely to come before next year, said Ed Marty, general counsel to the court.
Prosecutors accuse DeLay and the two consultants of violating state law by funneling $190,000 in illegal corporate money to the Republican National Committee, which then donated the same amount to Texas candidates. Under Texas law, corporate money can't be directly used for political campaigns.
DeLay and the consultants, Jim Ellis and John Colyandro, say the transaction was legal.
The dispute over the dismissed charge centers on whether the conspiracy statute applied to the state's election code in 2002. DeLay was accused of conspiring to violate the election code, but his attorneys say that transaction was not illegal at the time. DeGuerin says the dropped charge accuses DeLay of conspiring to violate the election code as it stood in 2003.
The other conspiracy count DeLay faces accuses him of conspiring to launder money.