DeLay Asks Judge to Dismiss Later Indictment
Hoping to turn up the heat on Ronnie Earle, lawyers for Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) filed a motion Friday evening charging the Travis County District Attorney with prosecutorial misconduct and seeking to have Earle’s second indictment against DeLay dismissed.
The substance of the dismissal motion centers on Earle’s activities between Sept. 28, when he first indicted DeLay on a charge of conspiring to violate the Texas election code, and Oct. 3, when Earle obtained a second indictment charging DeLay with conspiracy to commit money laundering.
During that period, DeLay’s attorneys wrote, “Earle and his staff engaged in an extraordinarily irregular and desperate attempt to contrive a viable charge and get a substitute indictment of Tom DeLay” before the statute of limitations on the lawmaker’s alleged infraction ran out.
In a statement released Friday night, Earle’s office said, “These claims have no merit. Because of the laws protecting grand jury secrecy, no other comments can be made. The investigation is continuing.”
Earle’s case centers on a $190,000 soft-money donation made in 2002 by Texans for a Republican Majority political action committee, a committee created by DeLay, to an arm of the Republican National Committee. The money was later sent by the RNC to several Texas state Legislature candidates in the form of hard money. Texas law prohibits corporate donations from being spent directly on campaigns.
After a grand jury indicted DeLay on conspiring in the money swap in violation of election law, his attorneys filed a motion to dismiss arguing that the election code was not covered by the state’s conspiracy statute in 2002.
Earle tried and failed to obtain another indictment on money laundering from a second grand jury, which declined to issue an indictment, before convincing a third grand jury to issue one on Oct. 3.
In their motion Friday, DeLay’s attorneys alleged that Earle “unlawfully participated in Grand Jury deliberations and attempted to browbeat and coerce” the second grand jury, and that he attempted “to cover up and delay public disclosure” of that grand jury’s decision not to indict.
DeLay’s lawyers further charged that Earle illegally “incited” the foreman of the first grand jury to publicly discuss the details of the case and that he had “unlawfully … discussed ongoing grand jury matters” with a few members of the first grand jury after it had been discharged.
The motion to dismiss came after DeLay’s allies had spent several days attempting to raise questions about Earle’s behavior in the case, arguing that the district attorney was blinded by his desire to attack DeLay and had violated the standards of his profession. Earle’s office has repeatedly denied those claims and asserted that the case against the former Majority Leader is on solid ground.
DeLay is currently scheduled to be formally arraigned in Austin on Oct. 21.