- The Washington Times - Friday, October 21, 2005

AUSTIN — The initial court showdown between former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle took a detour yesterday as a recusal motion by the Texas Republican’s lead lawyer was taken under consideration by District Judge Bob Perkins, who has been accused of partisanship for his donations to Democratic candidates and the liberal group MoveOn.org.

Defense lawyer Dick DeGuerin made an issue of the $3,400 in political donations the judge has made to Democratic causes, including MoveOn.org.

“I noticed yesterday MoveOn.org, to which you have contributed, was selling T-shirts with Mr. DeLay’s mug shot on it,” Mr. DeGuerin said, referring to the liberal interest group and the picture of a smiling Mr. DeLay taken Thursday.

Judge Perkins said he had not seen the T-shirt and “I haven’t bought it” but added that the best way to handle the situation would be to defer further proceedings until the recusal matter is decided.

The judge said he didn’t recall contributing to MoveOn.org since before the 2004 election, “when they were helping John Kerry.”

MoveOn.org denied it was selling any shirts as described by Mr. DeGuerin and issued a statement that said, “DeGuerin has either bad information or lied in court.” Mr. DeGuerin said later that he had made a mistake. The T-shirts were offered by two groups that receive money from MoveOn.org, he said.

The much-awaited hearing for the former majority leader, who faces conspiracy and money-laundering charges, lasted only about eight minutes in a packed courtroom.

Mr. DeGuerin also filed a change-of-venue motion, arguing that the trial should be moved out of Austin, one of Texas’ most liberal and Democratic cities.

After the hearing, Mr. DeLay professed his innocence and lambasted Mr. Earle for “abusing” his role.

“The only reason I had to stand in that courtroom today was because Ronnie Earle has abused his prosecutorial power and pursued these contrived and baseless charges,” Mr. DeLay said near the state Capitol.

“Because I was successful in exercising my right to be involved in a political process that elected more Republicans, I became a target of Ronnie Earle.

“I will not let a prosecutor who pursues his political enemies by abusing the law and manufacturing baseless charges wreck our justice system,” he said. “Grand jury shopping and make-the-law-up-as-you-go injustice will not rule the day. The facts and the law will rule the day.”

Mr. Earle argued that Judge Perkins could be impartial in the case and said the judge’s contributions to political campaigns should not mean he has to recuse himself.

“What this means is if a judge had contributed to Crime Stoppers that judge could not hear a burglary case,” Mr. Earle said. “Carried to its extreme, that is what I think this motion means, and I think that’s absurd. We don’t live in a country where political party determines the measure of justice.”

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