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Tom DeLay Indicted, Will Step Aside As Leader:
Wow. Read all about it here.

  UPDATE: The indictment is available here in .pdf format (4 pages).
JohnAnnArbor:
Wasn't Sen. Hutchison indicted--and cleared-- a while back for something similar?
9.28.2005 2:55pm
Hugh59 (mail):
Yup! That Prosecuting Attorney is known for politically motivated indictments and prosecutions. If DeLay is acquitted, he will enjoy a near bulletproof political status in Texas (as has Senator Hutchinson).
9.28.2005 3:01pm
Nobody Special:
So I read the indictment.

What was interesting to me was the part on pages three and four, where, apparently DeLay waived the statute of limitations.

Now, politically, that makes good sense- "I want to prove these charges are baseless" and all that. However, at the same time, if you thought there was a good chance of actually getting convicted, better to let the scandal play itself out in the media rather than get a conviction against you.

That's why I strongly suspect that he's going to beat this charge, especially since, as Hugh59 notes, this prosecutor has a history of these prosecutions- whether this one is part of that or not, that's a theory I'd love to take to the jury.
9.28.2005 3:05pm
spencere (mail):
The question is not if the prosectur has a record of these type of cases. Rather it is what is his success rate with these type of cases?
9.28.2005 3:16pm
Moonage Webdream (mail) (www):

The question is not if the prosectur has a record of these type of cases. Rather it is what is his success rate with these type of cases?


On the federal level, I believe his success rate is zero.
9.28.2005 3:18pm
Chris Murphy (mail):
It's a right wing myth that the prosecutor is known for politically motivated prosecutions. Although a Democrat, the prosecutor has indicted more Democrats than Republicans on politically related charges.
9.28.2005 3:19pm
Ken Willis (mail):
From statement issued by Delay's office:

<blockquote>
Ronnie Earle's 1994 indictment against Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison was quickly dismissed and his charges in the 1980s against former Attorney General Jim Mattox-another political foe of Earle-fell apart at trial.
</blockquote>
9.28.2005 3:19pm
Steve:
Bit of cherry-picking there by Delay's office.

Former state Rep. Betty Denton, D-Waco, 1995: Sentenced to six months probation and fined $2,000 for listing false loans and contributions on campaign finance reports.

Former state Rep. Lane Denton, D-Waco, 1995: Sentenced to 60 days in work-release program and six years probation, fined $6,000 and ordered to pay more than $67,000 restitution after being convicted of theft and misapplication of fiduciary property for funneling money from the Department of Public Safety Officers Association to a Denton company.

House Speaker Gib Lewis, D-Fort Worth, 1992: In plea bargain, Earle dropped more serious charges when Lewis pleaded no contest to failing to disclose a business investment. Lewis was fined $2,000, and the judge said he took into consideration that Lewis was retiring from public office.

State Rep. Mike Martin, R-Longview, 1982: Pleaded guilty to perjury after lying about having himself shot to gain publicity. Did not run for re-election.

State Treasurer Warren Harding, Democrat, 1982: Pleaded no contest to official misconduct and dropped re-election bid.

Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Yarbrough, Democrat, 1978: Sentenced to five years for lying to a grand jury and forgery. Gave up seat.
9.28.2005 3:28pm
gab (mail):
The real beauty is that David Dreier (R) San Dimas is going to temporarily be House Majority Leader. Maybe Dreier's true colors will come out.

9.28.2005 3:28pm
Arthur (mail):
DA Ronnie Earle's political prosecution track record, courtesy of Dailykos.com linking to an ld Austin newspaper. Looks like he mostly aims at Democrats--and doesn't always land convictions.

U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, 1994: Acquitted of official misconduct and records tampering after Earle dropped the case during the trial.

Former state Rep. Betty Denton, D-Waco, 1995: Sentenced to six months probation and fined $2,000 for listing false loans and contributions on campaign finance reports.

Former state Rep. Lane Denton, D-Waco, 1995: Sentenced to 60 days in work-release program and six years probation, fined $6,000 and ordered to pay more than $67,000 restitution after being convicted of theft and misapplication of fiduciary property for funneling money from the Department of Public Safety Officers Association to a Denton company.

House Speaker Gib Lewis, D-Fort Worth, 1992: In plea bargain, Earle dropped more serious charges when Lewis pleaded no contest to failing to disclose a business investment. Lewis was fined $2,000, and the judge said he took into consideration that Lewis was retiring from public office.

Attorney General Jim Mattox, Democrat, 1985: Acquitted on felony bribery charges. Won re-election.

State Rep. Mike Martin, R-Longview, 1982: Pleaded guilty to perjury after lying about having himself shot to gain publicity. Did not run for re-election.

State Treasurer Warren Harding, Democrat, 1982: Pleaded no contest to official misconduct and dropped re-election bid.

Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Yarbrough, Democrat, 1978: Sentenced to five years for lying to a grand jury and forgery. Gave up seat.
9.28.2005 3:30pm
42USC1983 (mail):
He waived the statue of limitations? Wow, that's hubris. Low-level defendants (universally to their disadvantage) waive their rights all the time, but people represented by sophisticated counsel know better. Anyone have any ideas why he would have done such a thing?
9.28.2005 3:47pm
Medis:
On the politically-motivated prosecution issue: I know that DeLay may soon be considered less of a Hammer and more of a Ham Sandwich, but I would note that his defenders seem to be ignoring the role of the grand jury in all this.
9.28.2005 3:47pm
Wince and Nod (mail) (www):
Would an originalist believe that the campaign finance laws in question are even constitutional? I suspect they aren't.

Yours,
Wince
9.28.2005 3:51pm
Syd (mail):

State Treasurer Warren Harding, Democrat, 1982: Pleaded no contest to official misconduct and dropped re-election bid.


Harding was the subject of one of my favorite headlines ever, to the effect "Warren G. Harding replaces Jesse James as Treasurer." Jesse James was the previous state treasurer, who died in office. I wouldn't put anyone with that name in charge of money.
9.28.2005 3:51pm
Medis:
Wince,

I assume you are talking about under the Texas Constitution, seeing as how these are Texas laws.
9.28.2005 3:54pm
Scipio (mail) (www):
A grand jury will indict a ham sandwich if presented with it.

-- numerous Crim Pro professors
9.28.2005 4:02pm
Medis:
Scipio,

So much for my attempt at prophylaxis.
9.28.2005 4:11pm
Scipio (mail) (www):
Medis,

Indeed. I hadn't even thought of that old saw until you trotted out your rhetorical flourish.
9.28.2005 4:19pm
uh clem (mail):
Brief synopsis of Earl's prosecutorial record against politicians from the Austin American Statesman:

http://makeashorterlink.com/?R2DF511EB:


Six Democrats, two Republicans, 6 convictions, two acquittals.

Of course, this doesn't jibe at all with the standard talking points of "he's partisan" and "he's not successful". But let's not let facts get in the way of rhetoric.
9.28.2005 4:33pm
Nobody (mail):
I don't have any information, but I assumed that the waiver of statute of limitations was by agreement between DeLay and Earle--for example, Earle could have subpoena'd documents from Delay. If Delay resisted the subpoena, or insisted on a later deadline for responding, Earle could have said "I'll agree to the delay, but only if you waive statute of limitations."

Same thing could have happened if Delay was subpoena'd to testify and insisted on putting off the date of his testimony. Earle could have agreed to the delay on the condition of his receiving a written waiver of SOL.

There wouldn't have been much risk here--the statute of limitations just ran out a couple of weeks ago, and the grand jury's term expired today. So Earle only bought himself a couple of weeks by securing the waiver.

Again, this is just speculation...
9.28.2005 4:43pm
Houston Lawyer:
The brief against Ronnie Earle is not so much that the prosecutions are partisan, it's that they are political. He's shown a willingness to go after Democrats who cross him, or who are in his way, as well as Republicans. His politically motiviated prosecutions are much less successful than others. His prosecutions of Jim Mattox and Kay Hutcheson were purely political and, consequently, unsuccessful. Delay has had a big target on his back ever since he helped engineer the redistricting of Texas in 2004. He obviously believes he can beat these charges. We'll see how quickly he can get to trial.
9.28.2005 4:47pm
Paul Virkler (mail):
Six Democrats, two Republicans, 6 convictions, two acquittals.

Or more precisely
Six Democrats, 6 convictions
two Republicans two acquittals.

I think that maybe the dems were guily while the Reps were not
9.28.2005 5:04pm
Wince and Nod (mail) (www):
Medis,

No, I was thinking of the U.S. Constitution. Freedom of association, freedom of speech, those bits.

Yours,
Wince
9.28.2005 5:26pm
JB:
Actually, Mattox is a D, so his acquittals are bipartisan
9.28.2005 5:29pm
Anonymous Jim (mail):
Following up on what Nobody said, the notion that Delay waived the SOL to prove his innocence is a crock. If you read the final paragraph of the indictment it says the grand jury made the indictment on September 13, 2005. So the indictment could have been filed then.
9.28.2005 5:44pm
rayabacus:
Take a look at this analysis of the indictment. If this is on spot, there doesn't appear to be much here.
9.28.2005 6:16pm
Sean O'Hara (mail):
Harding was the subject of one of my favorite headlines ever, to the effect "Warren G. Harding replaces Jesse James as Treasurer." Jesse James was the previous state treasurer, who died in office. I wouldn't put anyone with that name in charge of money.

Warren Harding or Jesse James?
9.28.2005 6:31pm
Bryan DB:
rayabacus,
I'm afraid it's not on spot.
9.28.2005 6:48pm
rayabacus:

I'm afraid it's not on spot.


Can you elaborate for a layman?
9.28.2005 6:52pm
Yankee_Mark:
Looking at the indictment document ... I see a detailed laying-out of evil deeds by the other two indictees but nothing specific linking it to DeLay. He is only mentioned in the list of defendants and the references to privileges waived at the very end. I'm no fan of DeLay but where does this document specifically allege that he did anything to be indicted for???
9.28.2005 7:11pm
Tbag (mail) (www):
The law he's charged under doesn't require an overt act to support a conviction. Mere entry into a conspiracy in which others are acting illegally is sufficient.

There doesn't need to be a charge of overt action on the part of Delay to support a criminal conspiracy conviction.

I'm not a huge fan of that law, but there it is.
9.28.2005 7:19pm
Bryan DB:
Rayabacus,
Without spending my whole afternoon looking into it (which is tempting, since it's more fun than work), it looks like a couple things happened:
1) the post raised the importance of the phrase "officeholder", and how it only means "state" officeholder, when the phrase is not used in any of the applicable statutes.
2) the post raised the importance of the venue issue as if it was a slam dunk in DeLay's favor (I think the phrase was "absurd to argue DeLay is not a TX resident") when it's at least arguable for the prosecutor, and perhaps a winnable argument that DeLay is not a resident of TX or that in the case of joint defendants the proper venue is Travis County (I'm not 100% sure on this one).
9.28.2005 7:23pm
rayabacus:
Bryan,

Thanks for your time and your help.
9.28.2005 7:31pm
From the Swamp (mail) (www):
The notion that Earle indicts Democrats as well as Republicans is misleading at best. During the time of the Democrat indictments, Texas was essentially an all Democrat stste, Republicans were non-existant in high places. Earle was simply going after conservative Democrats that were on his enemies list.
9.28.2005 8:49pm
James968 (mail):
One thing about the criticism on junk yard blog is the author is claiming that the law doesn't apply to Federal Races, only state races.

Tom DeLay is accused (in the indictment) of funneling money into State Legislative Races. It seems a bit of slight of hand to justify the article's criticism.
9.28.2005 9:11pm
Jeff R.:
Is there really no distinction between exploiting a loophole in a badly-written law and engaging in a criminal conspiracy to violate that law? If so, why aren't the jails overflowing with accountants and tax lawyers?
9.28.2005 9:34pm
Tbag (mail) (www):
Swamp,

You're right. And now Texas is basically a Republican operation. Hence the recent trend in the indictments.

That he goes after the party in power should be expected. Once the Dems, now the Repubs.
9.28.2005 10:36pm
arbitraryaardvark (mail) (www):
DeLay has stepped down temporarily, not permanently. On the other hand, the voting rights act will expire in 1970 unless extended.
He seems to charged with conspiring about two things. I'm guestimating; the indictment wasn't very clear for one used to them. A count of prohibited corporate contributions, where there's a defense the corporate contributions were used for a legal purposes, administrative expenses (which covers salaries etc.) It was bad form not to use a separate checking account for corporate contributions (unless the law requires exactly one account?) but not illegal.
A count of making a contribution too close to the election.
When the case is not about whether a bribe was paid, but -when- a bribe was paid, that's not exactly a lot of moral authority. (to be clear, i'm not saying there was any bribery.) It's at most a paperwork violation. Wildlife ecologists may have an argument that feeding politicians out of season is not just a paperwork violation, but that's how I tend to see it. My experience, as someone who has run for office, is that there are too many rules, so it ends up being a crime to run for office. Both the Texas and federal constitutions protect political activity in some relevant ways. It's going to be hard to overcome reasonable doubt about the intent to conspire to break the law, when DeLay had hired a laywer who told him he could do it this way.
DeLay raises millions (12 million says mother jones) legally. He has very little incentive to knowingly screw up.
It seems more plausible to me it was an innocent mistake, but a mistake of the sort that can happen if you are a powerhungry Texas politico shaking down businesses for millions. Robert Caro's "The Master of the Senate" is a detailed look at how this can work.
9.28.2005 10:36pm
Ken Willis (mail):
Delay has known for a long time, and so has everyone else, that Ronnie Earle would indict him. I don't think Delay would have waived the statute of limitations if he thought there was a serious chance of conviction.

For a Texas politician it will be better in the long run to show the indictment has no merit than to snuff it with the statute of limitations, thus leaving the issue of his guilt or innocence open to question.

Once this indictment is shown to be the cheap political trick that it is, Delay will be a powerhouse in Texas politics. That's what Earle's indictment of Kay Baily Hutchinson did for her.
9.28.2005 11:44pm
James968 (mail):
It looks like at least 1 (COLYANDRO) of the other Alleged Co-conspiractors is a Travis County Resident. (Ellis may be also, his name is more common and can be found almost everywhere).

Also TRM-PAC* (the 'vehicle' used to for the conspiracy) is registered with the Texas Ethics Committee in Austin (Travis County) and has its address as Austin (Travis County).

July Semi-Anual Texas Ethic Com. Filing

(Also a 2002 report shows a different address, but still in Travis County. The treasurers phone number is (oddly) also in the 512 area code (Travis), but his physical address is not).

I would think that would put it in Ronnie Earl's venue. (If someone is more familiar with this area, please correct me).

*TRM-PAC= Texans for a Republican Majority

Other Reports available at:
TEC Electronic Filings for acct= 00051373gpac
9.28.2005 11:53pm
Medis:
Wince,

Surely you are not contending that the original meaning of the First Amendment was that it applied to STATES!

Or are you--gasp!--implying that the 14th Amendment INCORPORATED the First Amendment against the states! For shame!
9.29.2005 12:20am
James968 (mail):
Me again (sorry). I was looking to see if the Election Code Specified anything specific in regards to PAC's and what venue they fall into, and I found this:

273.024. Venue

An offense under this subchapter may be prosecuted in the
county in which the offense was committed or an adjoining county.
If the offense is committed in connection with a statewide
election, the offense may be prosecuted in the county in which the
offense was committed, an adjoining county, or Travis County.

The 1st sentence is the interesting part. (The race's were not statewide, so the don't apply). Anyway, Jack Stick (one of the people who received the funds), represents Travis County (he was my rep, until he lost in 04). So unless Jack Stick received the funds outside of Travis County or an adjoining County, it would be Earl's venue. (Or course, if they can get everyone to testify they got the check in Houston, it MIGHT be a problem).
9.29.2005 12:30am
CuriousJim:
Assume for the moment that Delay's attorneys are able to demonstrate that the charges are without merit and they are dismissed, either with prejudice or with a judge-mandated acquittal ala' Hutchinson... What potential penalties, if any, may be levied against Earle to, in some sense, forestall or preclude a spate of indictments filed by any D.A. with questionable and historically demonstrable political agenda in an attempt to disrupt the national, legislative or political process? I would suggest that something other than a suit for malicious prosecution might be needed to create a disincentive to bring an extremely weak case while simultaneously providing proper incentive to assemble a preponderance of evidence.
9.29.2005 6:17am
Random Jerk (mail):
Simply saying, "Well, this prosecutor indicted some Dems, so he's more of a reformer than a political animal" reveals an embarassing naivette about state politics. Texas politics aren't just about Dem vs. Rep, they're also about Dem vs. Dem, and Earle always seems to step in with his indictments at just the right moment to decapitate his allies' political opponents or people who the Texas Dem Party simply need to go away. He's the Party hit man, and since Dems hate Tom Delay so much, they're using him for a blatant, anti-democratic overreach that will cripple their state party for DECADES.

Not that I'm complaining. If your opponent is committing suicide, don't stop him.
9.29.2005 9:19am
Yankee_Mark:
Ugh! I don't really like the idea of fettering the prosecutor's ability to zealousy pursue people because of the way that really bad people could (ab)use it. The Al Capones &John Gottis of the world could (and did) make claims of harrassment and of charges without merit ... and the DA's persistence was key to bringing them down.

Perhaps changes to the Grand Jury process to take away some of the advantages enjoyed by the prosecutor and making it harder to ger indictments. Most people have no clue how slanted this process is and would probably not mind placing a higher burden on the DA and make them include known exculpatory info/evidence etc.

Perhaps to (in addition to facing the voter check) the Bar association could oversee/monitor this process and provide reviews &reports on indictments sought and the like. That veil of secrecy surrounding GJ proceedings would make that tough though and one admits that there is value in protecting the identity/reputation of those whom are so clearly innocent that DA can't get a bill returned.
9.29.2005 9:29am
Wince and Nod (mail) (www):
Medis,

I'm hanging my head. I was thinking the 14th Amendment incorporated the 1st. So I'm hanging my head in shame. Or maybe my tie is stuck in my belt.

Yours,
Wince
9.29.2005 11:26am
Houston Lawyer:
Reforming the grand jury process is a very difficult thing to do. My criminal procedure professor stated that, in response to criticism from law professors at the University of Texas that he was leading laymen astray on a grand jury, an Austin DA constituted a grand jury stuffed full of law professors and other professionals. At the end of that grand jury's term, the DA demonstrated to this group of luminaries that they had been the most likely to indict grand jury that he had ever seen.

So this group, which you would think contained a large number of law enforcement skeptics, was actually less skeptical than your typical group of laymen. How do you get around the fact that almost any grand jury is going to indict someone if the DA believes he should be indicted?
9.29.2005 11:41am
Justin (mail):
What Houston Lawyer and Random Jerk fail to demonstrate is any basis for any of the evidence of anything:

The evidence is that, bc Hutchenson and Martin are Republicans, he goes after political rivals.

But 6 of the 8 that he goes after are Democrats...but that's okay, even though its SIMPLY ENOUGH to show that SOME of the guys he goes after are Republicans to show political opportunism, it is INEFFECTIVE to show that he goes after mostly Democrats. What Houston and Jerk need to show us is that the 6 Democrats he went after were political rivals.

Even still, 6 of 8 convictions or pleas of guilty? Isn't the argument that he's a just a hack political opportunist the same as saying that lawyers who successfully pursue product liability suits are engaging in frivolous lawsuits.
9.29.2005 5:06pm
CuriousJim:
Houston Lawyer and Yankee Mark: I find the suggestion of more transparency in the GJ process to be intriguing. I agree that there might be some value in making the process of obtaining a bill of indictment just a touch more difficult for D.A.'s. I'm not in favor of taking yet another arrow out of the D.A.'s quiver in terms of leverage in obtaining a plea, rolling conspirators, et al. But, there does seem to be an increasing number of frivolous, or at least ill-advised, prosecutions based on the scantiest or most convoluted evidence.

However, my question was more intended to address the post-indictment/"trial" phase than the pre-indictment/"trial" phase. What we have in this situation (not to mention the economic and social impacts to normal individuals outside this unique example) is the de facto removal of the majority party's leader at the national level, while making the process of national political ascension and the resultant impacts on national political agenda/effectiveness vulnerable to the whims of local political ideologues or operatives. Even should Delay and his attorneys demonstrate that the charges are without merit and achieve the same results vis a vis Hutchinson, the process will take a minimum of weeks and more likely months. In the mean time, the national political process has been disrupted at a minimum and the democratically elected majority's ability to pursue its legislative agenda has been negatively or completely thwarted at worst.

What punitive measures or disincentives could and should be put into place to discourage potential abuses? No, we don't necessarily wish to fetter D.A.'s in their zealous prosecutorial pursuits. But, neither do we wish to allow the judiciary to be a means by which political parties are allowed to circumvent the national process using local officials who are less open to scrutiny and less vulnerable politically than either state or federal officiers which must seek to satisfy or are answerable to a much broader base.
9.29.2005 5:53pm