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Tom DeLay's money laundering trial begins

By the CNN Wire Staff
Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, left, sits in an Austin, Texas, courtroom last week during jury selection.
Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, left, sits in an Austin, Texas, courtroom last week during jury selection.
  • NEW: "I feel very confident," former lawmaker says
  • Prosecutors allege DeLay illegally sent money to help legislative candidates
  • DeLay has pleaded not guilty to money laundering and conspiracy
  • The trial will take place in Austin, Texas
  • Tom DeLay
  • Republican Party
  • Texas
  • Jack Abramoff

(CNN) -- Opening statements began Monday in the trial of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who is charged with illegally funneling corporate money to help elect GOP candidates to the Texas legislature.

The Republican was indicted in 2005 on charges that he illegally sent $190,000 in corporate money through the Republican National Committee to help elect GOP Texas legislative candidates in 2002.

"When there's no case, you feel pretty confident ,and i feel very confident," DeLay told CNN affiliate KVUE as he walked into the courtroom with his wife and attorney Monday morning.

DeLay, who resigned in 2006, has pleaded not guilty to money laundering and conspiracy. He has said the trial will clear him.

His attorney, Dick DeGuerin, wanted the trial heard in DeLay's home county of Fort Bend, calling it "high political." He said the case against his client began over congressional redistricting that gave Republicans control.

DeGuerin tried to get the trial moved to another jurisdiction, arguing that "heavily Democratic" Travis County has a "strong anti-Tom DeLay feeling."

But Senior District Judge Pat Priest ruled in August that DeLay will get a fair trial in Austin.

"He's finally going to get a trial," DeGuerin said. "He's literally been begging for five years."

DeGuerin said the evidence "will show [DeLay] didn't do anything."

Two other men facing charges in the case will be tried later.

Over the summer, DeLay said a separate, long-running federal criminal investigation of him had been closed with no charges. The U.S. Department of Justice declined comment on the federal investigation.

DeLay was under investigation for his ties to lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who pleaded guilty in 2006 to fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy to bribe public officials. Abramoff admitted defrauding Native American tribal clients of millions of dollars for help in gaining casino licenses.

DeLay said he had informed Abramoff that "our relationship is over" when he learned of Abramoff's plans for casinos aboard cruise ships. He also told reporters that during a visit to a casino on a Choctaw reservation, he was disgusted when he saw a long line of baby carriages lined up while parents were gambling at 11:30 p.m.