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Judge: Tom DeLay to serve 3 years in prison

By the CNN Wire Staff
Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay was sentenced Monday to serve three years in prison.
Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay was sentenced Monday to serve three years in prison.
  • DeLay sentenced to 3 years on the conspiracy charge, 5 years on the money-laundering charge
  • The judge will allow 10 years community service and probation in lieu of the laundering sentence
  • DeLay faced up to 99 years for money laundering and 20 years on the conspiracy charge
  • DeLay: "I can't feel remorseful for something I don't think I did"

Austin, Texas (CNN) -- Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay will serve three years in prison on his November conviction on money laundering and conspiracy charges, a Texas judge ruled Monday.

Judge Pat Priest sentenced DeLay to three years on the conspiracy charge and five years on the money-laundering charge. But the judge will allow DeLay to serve 10 years probation with community service on the laundering charge in lieu of the prison sentence, and the two sentences will be served concurrently.

Priest remanded DeLay into custody and set a $10,000 bond pending appeal.

Defense attorney Dick DeGuerin left the courthouse quickly after the sentence was announced but he spoke briefly, saying, "If I told you what I thought, I would get sued. This will not stand."

Addressing the court prior to the sentencing, DeLay argued that he still doesn't believe he did anything wrong and never did anything for personal gain.

"I always intended to follow the law," he said. "I'm not stupid. Everything I did I had accountants and lawyers telling me what to do and how to follow the letter of the law, even the spirit of the law."

Tom DeLay faces three years in prison
2010: DeLay guilty of money laundering
DeLay: Verdict is miscarriage of justice

DeLay was found guilty in November of illegally funneling corporate money to help elect Republican candidates to the Texas legislature.

"Judge, I can't be remorseful for something I don't think I did," he said.

Earlier, prosecutor Steve Brandt urged the judge to send DeLay to prison, saying the once-powerful Republican showed too much disregard for the law to warrant community service and probation.

"He has shown no remorse, no remorse whatsoever," said prosecutor Steve Brandt in his closing arguments. "The man, according to him, does nothing wrong."

"He needs to go to prison, your honor, and he needs to go today."

"If he gets probation," Brandt said, "and those people who read the newspaper tomorrow ... will say, 'I told you. He wears a tie, he gets probation.'"

"I'm going to use a quote from Alexander Hamilton," he said. "'No one is above the law.'"

DeGuerin countered that "no purpose would be served today by sending Tom DeLay to prison ... He lost it all already."

DeGuerin stressed DeLay's lifetime of public service, detailing "his good works for his party, his state and his country," and claimed that the prosecution was "political."

"We accept the jury entered its verdict, but we do not accept it," he said. "We will challenge it ... and we have the right."

DeGuerin said the prosecution was based on the redistricting that took place by the new Texas legislature after the 2002 election -- an effort that changed district lines and cost several Democrats their congressional seats.

"I say that the redistricting that came about ... is what motivated the prosecution to go after him," the attorney said, "because for the first time in decades, the representation represented more of the voters' make-up of Texas."

At the outset of the trial, DeLay predicted he would be proclaimed innocent and called his conviction "an abuse of power" and "a miscarriage of justice."

DeLay was found guilty of money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering, after being accused of funneling $190,000 to help elect Republicans to the state House and Senate in 2002.

He faced a possible maximum prison term of 99 years on the money-laundering charge and 20 years on the conspiracy charge. The prosecution had asked for the full extent of punishment or "no less than 10 years confinement."

The defense sought only probation. Two other men facing charges in the case are awaiting trial.

DeLay, a conservative Republican, helped Newt Gingrich spearhead the GOP revival in 1994 that won control of the House and Senate in the first midterm election under Democratic President Bill Clinton.

While serving as the GOP's congressional whip, DeLay earned the nickname "The Hammer" for his strict enforcement of party discipline. In 2004, he was admonished three times by the House ethics committee, which warned him to "temper" his future actions to comply with House rules.

DeLay stepped aside as majority leader after his 2005 indictment on the money-laundering and conspiracy charges and resigned from Congress the following year. He fought the charges on procedural grounds for several years seeking unsuccessfully to have the trial held in his home county in suburban Houston instead of in the state capital, Austin, and blaming the indictment on a partisan prosecutor.

This past summer, DeLay said a separate, long-running federal criminal investigation of his ties to lobbyist Jack Abramoff had been closed with no charges.

Abramoff pleaded guilty in 2006 to charges of fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy to bribe public officials. Two former DeLay aides who joined Abramoff's lobbying team after leaving Capitol Hill, also pleaded guilty during the wide-ranging influence peddling investigation.

The Justice Department has declined to comment on the status of the Abramoff investigation, which also resulted in prison time for Ohio Republican Rep. Bob Ney and for Steven Griles, the No. 2 official in the Interior Department for much of the administration of President George W. Bush.

On Monady, DeLay told the judge that his legal bills have topped $10 million.

Despite his legal troubles, DeLay found time last year to appear as a short-lived contestant on the television show "Dancing with the Stars." He dropped out of the demanding dance competition due to stress fractures in both feet.

CNN's Tracy Sabo contributed to this report.