DeLay indicted on new charges

By wire services
Published October 4, 2005

AUSTIN, Texas - A Texas grand jury on Monday indicted Rep. Tom DeLay again on money laundering charges after the former majority leader attacked last week's indictment on technical grounds.

The new indictment contains two counts: conspiring to launder money and money laundering. The latter charge carries a penalty of up to life in prison.

The indictment accuses DeLay, R-Texas, of illegally circumventing the state's law against corporate campaign contributions, and was issued by a newly empanelled Travis County grand jury on the first day of its term.

A separate Travis County grand jury handed up indictments against DeLay - on a charge of conspiring to violate campaign finance laws - and his associates Wednesday, the last day of that grand jury's term.

DeLay, who stepped down as House majority leader last week, called the new charges an "abomination of justice" by Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle. It came just as DeLay's attorneys were filing a motion to dismiss the first charge against him because the law he was alleged to have broken was not in effect until 2003 - the year after the alleged money transfers.

"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."

University of Texas law professor George Dix, an expert in election legal matters, said Monday night that he thinks DeLay's attorneys are wrong in maintaining that the initial conspiracy complaint against DeLay was not valid in 2002.

The 2003 legislative session simply made explicit the somewhat "awkward language" of the law that already made it a criminal conspiracy to agree to violate election laws, Dix said. "I don't see any reason to think that, in 2002, it was not a crime of conspiracy to agree to violate the election code in a way that would be a felony," he said.

The judge who will preside in DeLay's case is out of the country on vacation and couldn't rule on the defense motion. Other state district judges declined to rule on the motion in his place.

Earle's office did not return repeated phone calls from the Associated Press.

The new indictment was issued as Bush administration officials confirmed news reports in London that the Justice Department had asked British police to question former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher about the circumstances of her meeting in 2000 with DeLay during a lavish trip to Britain organized by the Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

The interview request was the first publicly disclosed evidence from the Justice Department that DeLay was under scrutiny in the department's wide-ranging corruption investigation of Abramoff.

--Information from the Associated Press, Fort Worth Star-Telegram and New York Times was used in this report.