- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 22, 2006

DALLAS — U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay campaigned in his southwest Houston area district yesterday while his attorneys battled for him before an Austin appeals court.

“I let the lawyers worry about that stuff,” he said to reporters as he entered a Sugar Land Rotary Club meeting, where he made a brief campaign speech.

Meanwhile in Austin, Dick DeGuerin, Mr. DeLay’s lead attorney, argued that two state conspiracy charges against his client should not be reinstated — charges that were dropped by state District Judge Pat Priest several weeks ago.

Those charges were part of wide-ranging indictments surrounding Mr. DeLay’s role in using corporate funds to help Republicans win control of the Texas Legislature in 2002 and then win several congressional races two years afterward.

Judge Priest ruled that one indictment dealing with purported election-code conspiracy was improper because the conspiracy part of the code was not operative at the time of the reputed infractions. The judge also dropped part of another conspiracy count, but left intact other money-laundering charges and one for conspiracy to launder money.

Mr. DeGuerin argued that contributions from corporations and other sources were kept in separate accounts and — despite the fact that the exact amount of the $190,000 in question was sent to Washington, then back to Republican candidates in Texas — the money was never intended to be a trade-off for support of the Texas candidates.

In a brief filed earlier, Mr. DeGuerin accused the state of appealing Judge Priest’s decision “to avoid trial and the embarrassment of an acquittal in this politically motivated prosecution.”

Mr. DeLay, attempting to win his House seat a 12th time in Texas’ 22nd District, faces former congressman Nick Lampson, a well-financed Democrat, in November. He has campaigned harder in this election than ever before — partly because of the uncertainty surrounding his legal problems.

“I’m focused on my district and focused on the election,” he said, but added: “It’s been almost 120 days that this frivolous appeal has been before the 3rd Circuit Court. I would hope that they would come to a speedy resolution on a matter that, I think, would take a first-year law student an hour to make a ruling on.”

Much of the presentation yesterday dealt with technicalities of the state election code. The state’s offering yesterday was handled by Travis County Assistant District Attorney Richard Reed.

The appeals court is expected to make a decision within a month.

Judge Priest has left Mr. DeLay’s trial date in limbo until this appeal process has straightened out the eventual charges.

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