- The Washington Times - Monday, January 9, 2006

DALLAS — The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals yesterday refused former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay’s appeal to dismiss money laundering charges against him or order a lower court to proceed immediately with his trial.

Mr. DeLay had been attempting to get through his Texas court proceedings before Congress reconvenes later this month, in the hope of recapturing his post as majority leader.

But the ruling seemed almost moot because Mr. DeLay, at the urging of some House Republicans, announced Saturday that he would step down permanently. He had given up the post temporarily after he was indicted in Austin in September.

Dick DeGuerin, Mr. DeLay’s lead attorney, said the congressman’s legal team would continue to push for a quick trial so that he can prove his innocence before the Texas primary election in early March.

“We’d like to get it over with before then,” Mr. DeGuerin said in Houston yesterday, “but it’s not as crucial as it would have been if he still were in the running for his leadership post.”

The attorney said the Sugar Land congressman maintained his innocence. “Tom DeLay is not going to plead guilty to anything, even spitting on the sidewalk,” Mr. DeGuerin added.

Mr. DeLay, 58, majority leader for three years, vowed to run a strong race for re-election in Texas’ 22nd District, which includes part of Houston and its suburbs. He faces three Republicans in the primary. Former Rep. Nick Lampson also is running.

Mr. Lampson, who served four terms in Congress, was one of a few Texas Democrats ousted from Congress in 2004, partially through the efforts of Mr. DeLay.

“During my time in Congress,” Mr. DeLay said Saturday, “I have always acted in an ethical manner within the rules of our body and the laws of our land. I am fully confident that time will bear this out.” He added that he could not “allow our adversaries to divide and distract our attention.”

DeLay spokesman Kevin Madden blamed the congressman’s problems on Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle, a Democrat who Mr. Madden said “gamed the justice system” to delay the Republican’s exoneration.

In December, the trial court in Austin dismissed a portion of the indictments against Mr. DeLay, involving conspiracy, but retained the more serious charges of money laundering. Prosecutors appealed the decision, and District Judge Pat Priest ruled that until Texas’ 3rd Court of Appeals decided on that motion, the trial would be held in abeyance.

Prosecutors say Mr. DeLay and two Republican fundraisers funneled $190,000 in corporate contributions, banned under Texas law, through a political acton committee to help seven Republican state legislative candidates win in 2002.

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