March 20, 2006

DeLay Legal Update

1. The Court granted a motion to stop Ronnie Earle from filing any more subpoenas. The whole trial has been on hold since mid-December, because Earle requested a stay while he is appealing to have reinstated several thrownout indictments.

2. DeLay attorney Dick DeGuerin is profiled in the Austin American-Statesman. It turns out DeGuerin lives on my street, about three blocks away. I'm pretty sure I've seen him when I run the outer loop at Rice.

3. Michael Hedges updates the situation for the Chronicle:

Rep. Tom DeLay, who emerged victorious from the Republican primary and hoped to dispose quickly of ethics controversies, remains in a legal limbo that could keep him under a cloud through the November election, according to lawyers involved in the Washington and Texas ethics cases.

The investigation into lobbyist Jack Abramoff's bilking of Indian gaming clients has not directly implicated DeLay. But it has led federal authorities to examine the actions of lawmakers and staffers with whom Abramoff worked, and DeLay is likely to be linked to the probe for the foreseeable future because of his previous close association with Abramoff.


Justice Department officials have declined to comment on DeLay's status in the wide-ranging probe into whether Abramoff or his associates got favors in return for contributing money to lawmakers' campaigns and arranging foreign trips for the lawmakers.

"The Justice Department has not approached us for any information or cooperation," said Richard Cullen, DeLay's attorney in the Abramoff corruption investigation. He said there is no reason to think DeLay is in legal jeopardy.

"Not even Tom DeLay's most fierce political enemies have alleged he has done anything criminal (in connection to the Washington investigation)," Cullen said. "It makes me wonder why the Chronicle feels compelled to write a story like this when there is no allegation he has done anything a prosecutor would be interested in."

The House Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi of California, did essentially make such an allegation in January, saying in a letter to House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., that Democrats expect the House ethics committee to look into the "alleged violations of criminal laws and the rules of the House" by DeLay and three other Republican lawmakers with ties to Abramoff. [See below -- Evan.] DeLay took trips to Russia and Britain that were indirectly funded by Abramoff and have drawn the attention of investigators to see if they involved funding that might have been improper.

Abramoff recently told Vanity Fair magazine that he didn't extensively lobby DeLay, partly because they already were in tune as conservatives.

Cullen has said the article supports the contention that there was no trade-off of legislative favors involved in their trips or their other dealings.


There are several legal moves remaining for both sides before DeLay's Texas lawyer, Dick DeGuerin, can achieve his goal of getting the charges into court.

A key tactic by DeLay's legal team is an effort to have the case moved from Travis County, a Democratic stronghold, to a venue more politically sympathetic to DeLay, like his home base of Fort Bend County. That request would be considered by a judge just before a trial commenced.

Given the pretrial snarls and likely appeals, a trial date in late July or early August appears most likely, DeGuerin said.

"Generally speaking, Mr. DeLay has put all his confidence in the legal system that these charges will be resolved in a timely fashion," DeGuerin said.

Here is the full text of Nancy Pelosi's letter that Hedges references. The letter doesn't seem to me to actually allege criminal conduct by DeLay (rather, it claims that "media stories have contained allegations"), which is what Hedges seems to imply.

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