- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 22, 2005

AUSTIN, Texas — Rep. Tom DeLay’s attorneys pushed hard to move the former House majority leader’s conspiracy and money-laundering litigation into fast forward yesterday, but the new judge assigned to the case said a trial date before January was unlikely.

Mr. DeLay’s lead attorney, Dick DeGuerin, said time was of the essence.

“We’re ready now,” the Houston lawyer told the court. “This is very important to us.”

He said Mr. DeLay had been shorn of his leadership duties “just because of the existence of an accusation.”

Defense attorneys made impassioned pleas for Judge Pat Priest to quash the charges against Mr. DeLay and against John Colyandro and Jim Ellis, Republican fundraisers who have been indicted with the former majority leader.

The thrust of their arguments centered on whether corporate contributions were “laundered” by the Republican National Committee in the fall of 2002 and whether the indictments outlined exact accusations as to what crimes had been committed and how.

Also, they argued that no law governing such conduct was on the Texas books at the time of the purported crimes. A clarification was not enacted until 2003, they said.

Mr. DeGuerin expressed “amazement” at what he said was a lack of specificity in the state’s case.

“No crime occurred and no crime is charged,” he argued.

Mr. DeLay’s political action committee, TRMPAC, “sent corporate money, legally donated, to an arm of the RNC, and that group sent money to candidates in Texas,” Mr. DeGuerin said. “There is no evidence that money came from Texas.”

Rick Reed, a Travis County assistant district attorney who handled much of the state’s presentation, said the funding exchange was “basically a negotiated swap. It was done in this manner in order to disguise the fact that it had been negotiated.”

Judge Priest, a retired jurist from San Antonio, is handling the case after the dismissal of the previous judge for perceived bias.

He said if he rejected the defense motions to dismiss the indictments, considerable testimony likely would follow.

If he rules to continue the case and sets a trial date, he said, he will not allow cameras in the courtroom but will not require a gag order.

Mr. DeLay and his wife, Christine, sat in the first row behind his attorneys. They left without comment and were escorted in a private elevator out the back of the courthouse.

Ronnie Earle, the district attorney who brought the charges, sat at the prosecution table but did not comment during the hearing.

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