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DeLay faces money laundering charge

Former majority leader calls indictment 'abomination of justice'



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Justice and Rights
Tom DeLay

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A Texas grand jury brought a charge of money laundering Monday against Rep. Tom DeLay, the former House majority leader indicted last week on conspiracy charges stemming from a campaign finance probe.

DeLay and two associates are now also charged with conspiring to illegally steer $190,000 in corporate donations to state legislative candidates in 2002 and to disguise its source by sending it through national Republican campaign committees.

In a written statement, the congressman called the indictment another example of "prosecutorial abuse" by District Attorney Ronnie Earle. (See video on DeLay's legal troubles -- 2:16)

"He is trying to pull the legal equivalent of a 'do-over,' since he knows very well that the charges he brought against me last week are totally manufactured and illegitimate," said the Texas Republican. "This is an abomination of justice."

DeLay's lawyer, Dick DeGuerin, said the new indictment came as a result of a motion he filed to dismiss the conspiracy charge brought Wednesday. DeGuerin argued that the state's conspiracy statute did not apply to the state election code.

"Faced with the fact that the indictment he returned against Mr. DeLay last week does not even state a crime, he went back before a grand jury -- who, by the way, was only empaneled today at noon -- and got this new indictment," he said.

He said DeLay, a 20-year veteran of Congress, is "ready for the fight." But he said Monday's developments indicate that process will take time.

"I thought that this would be resolved quickly, and Congressman DeLay can get back to Washington and resume his post," DeGuerin said. "But obviously, the game here is to keep Congressman DeLay out of his leadership post in the Congress."

DeLay, 58, has represented a suburban Houston district in Congress since 1985. In 2002, he became House majority leader -- a post he held until Wednesday's charge.

The rules of the GOP conference call for members to give up leadership posts if they are indicted -- a requirement DeLay's allies reversed last year, only to restore it after a storm of criticism.

House Republicans selected Majority Whip Roy Blunt of Missouri as their acting leader, with Reps. Eric Cantor of Virginia and David Dreier of California also taking on additional duties.

DeLay has accused Earle, a Democrat, of launching a partisan vendetta against him after the 2002 elections, which saw Republicans take control of both houses of the Texas legislature.

Lawmakers then passed a hotly contested, DeLay-engineered plan to redraw Texas' congressional districts, which resulted in the GOP picking up House seats in redrawn districts in 2004.

Earle denied a political motive, saying 12 of the 15 officials he has prosecuted on corruption charges have been Democrats.

The Travis County grand jury indicted DeLay and the same two associates, John Colyandro and Jim Ellis, on conspiracy charges stemming from the same allegations last week.

Prosecutors say the three men agreed to violate campaign finance laws by sending corporate donations given a state political action committee, Texans for a Republican Majority, to the national Republican Party.

The national GOP in turn is alleged to have distributed the same amount of funds to Republican legislative candidates in Texas.

Corporations cannot donate to candidates in Texas elections.

DeGuerin said last week that the donations to TRMPAC went to states where corporate money could be lawfully donated, and the money that was sent to Texas candidates came from individuals.

"No corporate money came to any candidate in Texas," he said.

DeGuerin said Monday he still believes a judge will dismiss the charges against his client -- "but if we go to trial, I'm confident that a fair jury will say Tom DeLay did not do anything wrong."

Money laundering is punishable by five years to life in prison under Texas law, with fines up to $10,000. The conspiracy charge carried a penalty of up to two years in prison and fines up to $10,000.

DeLay said Sunday he thinks he will return to his leadership post after the case is resolved.

"I think it will be over and be over very, very soon. And I think I will go back to be majority leader," he told "Fox News Sunday." "I'm still a member of Congress. I'm going to be working on the agenda and doing everything I can to make good things happen."

Nicknamed "The Hammer" during his tenure as GOP whip, DeLay was admonished by the House ethics committee three times in 2004 over separate issues.

Rep. Christopher Shays has been calling for DeLay's resignation.

On CNN's "Late Edition" Sunday, the Connecticut Republican reiterated that call, citing "continual acts that border and go sometimes beyond the ethical edge."

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