- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 18, 2005

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A state district judge said yesterday that he will not immediately consider separating two criminal charges against Rep. Tom DeLay to allow an early trial.

Earlier this month, Senior Judge Pat Priest dismissed a conspiracy charge against the Texas Republican and former House majority leader but refused to throw out more serious accusations of money laundering. Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle served notice last Monday that he intends to ask an appeals court to reinstate the conspiracy charge.

Mr. DeLay’s lawyers said they had hoped Judge Priest would separate the charges in an effort to move forward on the money-laundering charge while they waited for the appeals court decision.

Mr. DeLay, who denies wrongdoing, has been pressing for a quick resolution of his case so he can regain his majority leader post before his colleagues reconvene in late January and call for new leadership elections.

Judge Priest rejected the defense bid yesterday, saying he would not act until after the 3rd Court of Appeals of Texas rules in the case.

A spokesman for Mr. DeLay called the appealed charges “baseless.”

“We’re confident that the appeals court will render a decision based on the facts and the law that agrees with this sentiment,” spokesman Kevin Madden said.

Judge Priest also canceled a Dec. 27 hearing, during which he was expected to consider the defense team’s accusations of misconduct against prosecutors who brought the charges.

Mr. DeLay was forced to step aside as majority leader in late November after he was indicted on state charges of conspiracy to violate Texas election laws. A second grand jury indicted him on charges of conspiracy to launder money and other money-laundering charges.

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