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DeLay's request for speedy trial on hold

Ruling could jeopardize DeLay's bid to regain leadership post

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Tom DeLay
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Ronnie Earle

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Rep. Tom DeLay's request for a speedy trial on money-laundering charges will have to wait until an appeals court decides whether there is any merit to dismissed charges that the congressman conspired to violate election law.

So said Senior Judge Pat Priest in an e-mail ruling Saturday that was sent to attorneys in the case.

Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle initially brought both charges against the Texas Republican in September, but Priest tossed out the conspiracy charge earlier this month and Earle has appealed the ruling. (Read about Priest dismissing the conspiracy charge)

DeLay's attorneys had petitioned to have the charges separated into two trials so the proceedings on the conspiracy count could move forward swiftly, but a December 27 hearing on the matter has been canceled. (Read about the request)

Dick DeGuerin, one of DeLay's attorneys, said he was surprised by the ruling, but added, "This fight is not over yet." The lawyer added that he he will file a response Monday in both courts, asking that the appeal be dismissed and requesting a speedy hearing.

He further called Earle's appeal "frivolous" and said it was part of a strategy to prolong the matter. Of DeLay, DeGuerin said, "He's anxious to get this behind him."

Earle could not be immediately reached for comment.

DeLay, who has represented his suburban Houston district since 1985, was forced to step down as House majority leader -- a post he'd held since 2002 -- after he was indicted on the conspiracy charge September 28. A second grand jury handed down the money-laundering indictment five days later.

DeLay has said that he will be exonerated and that he intends to return to his House leadership position.

Priest's Saturday ruling pushes the proceedings further into next year and muddles the political timetable for DeLay, as leadership elections in the House Republican conference could take place in early 2006.

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