Thursday, October 6, 2005

Three days after a grand jury turned down a second indictment of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, prosecutor Ronnie Earle went to a new grand jury citing new evidence and won indictments on charges of money laundering and conspiracy to launder money.

Mr. DeLay and two political associates were first indicted Sept. 28 on a charge of a criminal conspiracy to violate campaign-finance laws and then were indicted by another grand jury Monday on the two money-laundering charges.

But in between, Mr. Earle, the district attorney for Travis County, Texas, tried but failed to get still another grand jury to indict Mr. DeLay, apparently on money-laundering charges.

“We have inquired carefully into the case… and in this said matter, we have failed to find a bill of indictment against him,” the grand jurors said in their “no-bill” statement regarding Mr. DeLay and two political associates.

Also yesterday, the foreman of the first grand jury, which returned the campaign-finance conspiracy indictment, said yesterday that his vote to indict was based on TV commercials that he disliked and were run by a Texas business group in 2002 and not on any evidence presented to the grand jury.

“My decision was based upon those, not based upon what happened in the grand jury room,” William Gibson told Austin radio station KLBJ. “They were stating their positions, and I could state my position by saying I don’t like that.”

Mr. DeLay’s supporters e-mailed the transcript and an audio clip of the radio interview to journalists and others yesterday as evidence that something was wrong with the process.

Mr. Earle won the initial indictment on the last day of the first grand jury, failed to win the second indictment on the last day of the second grand jury, then won two more indictments on the first day of the third grand jury.

In a written statement issued Tuesday, Mr. Earle said Monday’s indictment was based on new evidence that he became aware of over the weekend.

The prosecutor did not say what the evidence is.

He also acknowledged that the intermediate grand jury didn’t return an indictment.

“Out of an abundance of caution because of the passage of time, the District Attorney’s Office presented some evidence of those allegations to another grand jury. That grand jury declined to indict on the last day of its regular term.”

The Austin American-Statesman first reported on the grand jury’s no-bill. The paper reported that before taking the case to the third grand jury Monday, prosecutors polled the first grand jury members to see how they would have voted on money-laundering charges.

The paper also reported that the no-bill document was not available at the courthouse when they checked Tuesday, contrary to usual practice after such a decision.

The charges all stem from Texans for a Republican Majority, a political action committee Mr. DeLay helped found. The daily operations were run by Jim Ellis and John Colyandro, who were also indicted on money-laundering and campaign-finance charges.

In the week since the first indictment, Mr. DeLay has followed House Republican rules and given up his post as majority leader, and he and his attorneys have given a series of interviews to TV and radio outlets.

Speaking on Fox News yesterday, one of Mr. DeLay’s attorneys, Dick DeGuerin, said that Mr. Earle had tried to have the first grand jury indict on money-laundering charges, but that grand jury refused.

Mr. DeLay’s attorneys had filed a motion to dismiss the first indictment, arguing the charges were based on a law that the Legislature changed in 2003, even though the actions charged happened in 2002. Soon after their motion, Mr. Earle won the second indictment, and Mr. DeLay’s lawyers said he had to seek the new indictment because his case was flimsy.

Mr. Earle says the political action committee violated a Texas state law banning corporate campaign contributions by collecting such donations, sending that money to an arm of the Republican National Committee, then asking the RNC group to donate to state candidates.

• This article was based in part on wire-service reports.

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