DeLay asks court to throw out indictment
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Lawyers for former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay filed a motion Friday asking a Texas court to set aside an indictment against him, accusing the Texas prosecutor of trying to "cover up" that a grand jury had refused to bring an indictment.
The motion accuses Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle and his staff of prosecutorial misconduct, saying they "attempted to browbeat and coerce" a grand jury "to change its decision so that there would be no public knowledge that a no bill had been found."
DeLay, R-Texas, and two associates were indicted September 28 on a conspiracy charge that accuses them of illegally steering $190,000 in corporate donations to state legislative candidates in 2002 and disguising the source by sending the money through national Republican campaign committees.
The indictment came as that grand jury's term was expiring.
After questions were raised about whether the charge applied to state election code, Earle went to a second grand jury, which declined to bring a money laundering charge against the three.
Earle then went to a third grand jury, and it returned an indictment on October 3 indicting DeLay and his associates, John Colyandro and Jim Ellis, with money laundering and conspiracy.
Friday's motion was filed in Travis County District Court by DeLay's lead attorney, Dick DeGuerin.
DeGuerin alleges that once Earle realized DeLay had been charged with a "crime that did not exist in Texas law," the prosecutor and his staff "engaged in an extraordinarily irregular and desperate attempt to contrive a viable charge" before the statute of limitations ended.
The motion accuses Earle of trying to cover up that the second grand jury rejected the prosecutor's "new, contrived charges of money laundering."
Under Texas law, money laundering is punishable by five years to life in prison with fines up to $10,000. The conspiracy count carries up to two years in prison and fines up to $10,000.
Earle's office said DeLay's motion won't hold up.
"These claims have no merit," his office said in a written statement. "Because of the laws protecting grand jury secrecy, no other comments can be made. The investigation is continuing."
DeLay, 58, has represented a suburban Houston district in Congress since 1985. In 2002 he became House majority leader. The conspiracy indictment forced him to give up that office.
DeLay has accused Earle, a Democrat, of launching a partisan vendetta against him after the 2002 elections in which Republicans took control of both houses of the Texas Legislature.
Earle disputes the accusation, pointing out that 12 of the 15 officials he has prosecuted on corruption charges have been Democrats.
The prosecutor has said he will prosecute DeLay and his two associates to the fullest. Earle alleges the three agreed to violate campaign finance laws by sending corporate donations given to a state political action committee, Texans for a Republican Majority, to the national Republican party. The national GOP, in turn, distributed the same amount of funds to Republican legislative candidates in Texas.
Corporations cannot donate to candidates in Texas elections.
DeGuerin has said 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.
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