- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 1, 2005

Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay yesterday won an opening round in his money-laundering and conspiracy trial, as a special judge ruled in Austin that a Democratic activist judge should not preside over the Republican’s case.

Senior Judge C.W. Duncan ruled that state District Judge Bob Perkins, who had been originally assigned to the DeLay case, should be removed.

The case now goes back to Administrative Judge B.B. Schraub, a Republican, who soon will name a new judge to move the case forward.

Mr. DeLay’s attorneys contended that Judge Perkins, though known as honest and fair, might be viewed as “partisan” because of his well-publicized support of several Democratic candidates in recent years.

“This is the wrong case for Judge Perkins to judge because of his perfectly permissible activity as a Democrat and as a partisan and as a supporter of Democratic causes,” said Dick DeGuerin, Mr. DeLay’s lead attorney, as the session concluded.

Mr. DeLay and two associates, John Colyandro and Jim Ellis, are accused of taking part in an illegal political funding scheme in 2002 to help several Republicans win election to the Texas Legislature. That body then passed a congressional redistricting realignment that enabled several more Republicans to be elected to Congress.

Among yesterday’s witnesses was Republican state Rep. Terry Keel of Austin, a former Travis County sheriff and once a top assistant in the office of District Attorney Ronnie Earle — the man who orchestrated the DeLay investigation through several grand juries to indictments last month.

“I know Judge Perkins well enough to know that he will be fair and impartial on any case he presides over,” Mr. Keel said.

Mr. DeGuerin made a motion to force Judge Perkins to testify, but the visiting judge refused to compel him to do so.

The DeLay team listed various political contributions to Democrats since 2000, including donations to MoveOn.org. the liberal advocacy group that has repeatedly criticized Mr. DeLay and his co-defendants.

Mr. DeGuerin said the “appearance of impropriety” obviously impressed the visiting judge.

After the hearing, Mr. Earle, a Democrat, expressed resentment at the suggestion of partisan motives behind the charges against Mr. DeLay.

“This is not a political case,” he said. “This is a criminal case. Mr. DeLay stands charged with a felony.”

The next step in the case will likely begin later this month, with arguments over whether the case should be moved out of Austin to another Texas city.

Yesterday’s procedures evoked memories of Mr. Earle’s 1994 attempt to prosecute Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison on charges that she engaged in official misconduct while serving earlier as Texas comptroller. Mrs. Hutchison — represented by the same Houston lawyer, Mr. DeGuerin — was acquitted. Judge Perkins had made a contribution to Mrs. Hutchison’s opponent in her Senate race.

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