- The Washington Times - Friday, October 7, 2005

Rep. Tom DeLay asked a court yesterday to set aside an indictment against him, charging that prosecutor Ronnie Earle engaged in misconduct.

Attorneys for the former House majority leader say Mr. Earle, the Travis County, Texas, district attorney, “attempted to browbeat and coerce” one grand jury into not publicizing the fact that it refused to indict Mr. DeLay and had his prosecutors discuss secret grand jury matters with one grand jury to try to gauge how to present a case to another grand jury.

“Ronnie Earle and his staff engaged in an extraordinarily irregular and desperate attempt to contrive a viable charge and get a substitute indictment of Tom DeLay before the expiration of the statute of limitations,” Mr. DeLay’s attorneys said in the motion.

Mr. Earle released a statement to the press last night saying he couldn’t comment.

“These claims have no merit,” he said. “Because of the laws protecting grand jury secrecy, no other comments can be made. The investigation is continuing.”

A grand jury indicted Mr. DeLay on Sept. 28 for conspiracy to violate Texas campaign laws by having a political action committee he founded raise money from corporations and send it to an arm of the Republican National Committee, which contributed money back to Texas candidates. Corporate donations cannot be used in Texas campaigns.

Mr. DeLay’s attorneys say that first charge doesn’t exist in law, and Mr. Earle tried to secure more indictments from a second grand jury on Sept. 30, but that panel refused. Mr. Earle went to a third grand jury, which did indict Mr. DeLay on new charges of money laundering and conspiracy to launder money.

Mr. DeLay’s attorneys said their motion to quash the first indictment, filed yesterday evening, is a way to find out what steps Mr. Earle took after he won that indictment.

“We want to have an opportunity to find out what they presented, what they didn’t present, how they presented it and what went on in terms of the district attorney’s office taking some sort of active role in the deliberations,” said Bill White, who is a member of Mr. DeLay’s defense team.

Speaking to The Washington Times on Thursday, Mr. DeLay said Mr. Earle should be held accountable for being a “rogue prosecutor.”

“I don’t know how, but there’s all kinds of avenues, I’m told,” he said. “You just think about how he has abused his power, how he has undermined the criminal justice system, how he is undermining the election system by criminalizing elections and dragging them into criminal courts is incredibly dangerous to our representative government. And if he’s not held accountable, then other DAs who would like to do this can feel they can freely do it.”

Several news outlets have reported that those familiar with the second grand jury say Mr. Earle became angry when it decided against an indictment.

Another question mark has arisen with William Gibson, the foreman of the first grand jury, who has talked publicly about the proceedings. Mr. DeLay’s attorneys said Mr. Earle “unlawfully incited” Mr. Gibson to go public in an attempt to bias the public, but Mr. Gibson has said he only spoke to Mr. Earle to see what he could and could not talk about.

Mr. Earle has said he went to the third grand jury after discovering new evidence last week, though he has not said what that evidence is.

Mr. White was skeptical: “That is horse pucky.”

In his interview this week, Mr. DeLay told The Times it was up to his lawyers whether to ask for a change of venue from Travis County, which is a liberal enclave in the conservative state.

Mr. White said that decision will be made later, but added, “I would have to say that the way it’s going now, it’s possible Ronnie Earle will be the one asking for a change in venue.”

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