- The Washington Times - Monday, October 17, 2005

ASSOCIATED PRESS

A Texas prosecutor offered Rep. Tom DeLay a deal to plead guilty to a misdemeanor and save his job as majority leader, but Mr. DeLay chose to fight felony charges instead, the congressman’s attorney said yesterday.

Dick DeGuerin, Mr. DeLay’s attorney, described the offer in a letter to the prosecutor as he filed motions in Austin to dismiss felony indictments and — barring dismissal of the case — to seek a speedy trial.

Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle had no immediate comment.

Mr. DeLay, Texas Republican, has been indicted on conspiracy and money-laundering charges, both felonies, in a Texas campaign-finance investigation. He was obligated to step aside as House majority leader, at least temporarily, under House Republican rules.

“Before the first indictment you tried to coerce a guilty plea from Tom DeLay for a misdemeanor, stating the alternative was indictment for a felony which would require his stepping down as majority leader of the United States House of Representatives,” Mr. DeGuerin wrote Mr. Earle.

“He turned you down flat so you had him indicted, in spite of advice from others in your office that Tom DeLay had not committed any crime,” the attorney wrote.

Mr. DeLay and two political associates are accused of using corporate money to finance the campaigns of Texas Republican candidates for the state Legislature. Texas law prohibits corporate political donations in state political campaigns.

The charges say that Mr. DeLay, two political associates and a Texas political action committee started by Mr. DeLay sent corporate money to the Republican National Committee in Washington, and that the RNC sent the funds back to Texas for the legislative candidates.

The donations helped Republicans win control of the Legislature in the 2002 elections and gain approval of a DeLay-inspired congressional redistricting plan that later helped the Republican Party retain control of the U.S. House.

In a series of filings prior to the Texas Republican’s arraignment Friday in Austin, Mr. DeGuerin asked for:

• A speedy trial, because the indictments “have already had adverse collateral consequences including the temporary loss of Tom DeLay’s leadership position in the United States Congress and an unknown effect on the upcoming [March 2006] primary election.”

• Dismissal of the indictments because, he contended, they failed to charge any act or omission by Mr. DeLay and improperly joined two offenses.

• Separation of Mr. DeLay’s case from that of two political associates charged as co-conspirators, because Mr. DeLay wants a speedy trial while the associates are pursuing appeals that would delay their cases.

Mr. DeLay likely will be booked in a Texas county jail this week despite attempts by his attorneys to bypass the fingerprinting and mug-shot process.

Steve Brittain, one of Mr. DeLay’s attorneys in Austin, also said the lawmaker has the option of surrendering to Fort Bend County authorities, the county where Mr. DeLay resides.

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