Wed, Oct 05, 2005 - Page 7 News List

DeLay re-indicted on cash laundering, conspiracy charges


A Texas grand jury re-indicted Representative Tom DeLay on charges of conspiring to launder money and money laundering after the former US House majority leader attacked last week's indictment on technical grounds.

The new indictment, handed up by a grand jury seated on Monday, contained two counts. The money laundering charge carries a penalty of up to life in prison. The charge of conspiracy to launder money is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

Last week, DeLay was charged with conspiracy to violate campaign finance laws, forcing him to leave his leadership position.

Defense lawyers asked a judge on Monday to throw out the first indictment, arguing that the charge of conspiring to violate campaign finance laws was based on a statute that did not take effect until 2003 -- a year after the alleged acts.

The new indictment from District Attorney Ronnie Earle, coming just hours after the new grand jurors were sworn in, outraged DeLay.

"Ronnie Earle has stooped to a new low with his brand of prosecutorial abuse," DeLay said in a statement. "He is trying to pull the legal equivalent of a `do-over' since he knows very well that the charges he brought against me last week are totally manufactured and illegitimate. This is an abomination of justice."

In a written statement, the office outlined the new charges and possible punishments, but did not address criticism from DeLay's attorneys.

Delay, 58, is the highest-ranking member of Congress to face a criminal prosecution. House Republican rules forced him to temporarily step aside as majority leader while he fights the charges.

DeLay and two political associates are accused of conspiring to get around a state ban on corporate campaign contributions by funneling the money through the DeLay-founded Texans for a Republican Majority Political Action Committee to the Republican National Committee in Washington. The Republican National Committee then sent back similar amounts to distribute to Texas candidates in 2002, the indictment alleges.

DeLay attorney Dick DeGuerin said the money spent on Texas candidates was "lawfully collected from individuals who knew what they were contributing to."

The indictment alleges that DeLay knowingly aided the transfer of the corporate money to help the Republicans win a majority in the Texas Legislature.

Once the Republicans had secured control of the legislature, state lawmakers adopted a DeLay-engineered congressional redistricting plan that gave the Republicans a stronger grasp on the US House of Representatives as well.

Bruce Buchanan, a University of Texas political science professor, said details were still emerging, but the new charge offers an opening for DeLay's defense team. He said prosecutors may be trying to correct weaknesses in the first indictment and build a more credible case.

The new indictment "gives the defendant an opportunity to discredit it and to influence the political interpretation of it," Buchanan said.

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