DeLay convicted of money laundering charges
TRMPAC TIMELINEDeLay set up Texans for a Republican Majority, known as TRMPAC, to raise money to help Republicans win control of the state House in the 2002 elections.
• September 2004: Grand jurors in Texas indict three DeLay associates - Jim Ellis, John Colyandro and Warren RoBold - in an investigation of alleged illegal corporate contributions to TRMPAC. The investigation involved the alleged use of corporate funds to aid GOP candidates for the Texas Legislature in the 2002 elections.
• September 2005: DeLay is indicted on charges of conspiring to violate Texas election law, money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
• October 2005: DeLay, Ellis and Colyandro are indicted by a second grand jury on charges of conspiring to launder money and money laundering.
• December 2005: A judge dismisses the conspiracy to violate Texas election law charge but refuses to throw out the more serious allegations of money laundering.
• August 2010: Charges against RoBold dismissed.
• Nov. 2: Opening arguments in Delay's trial.
• Nov. 24: Jury convicts Delay on both charges.
AUSTIN — Eight years after former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay helped engineer a Republican takeover of the Texas House and state congressional delegation, a Travis County jury Wednesday convicted him of felony money laundering in the 2002 elections.
DeLay, of Sugar Land, was convicted in a scheme to funnel corporate donations to seven Texas House candidates through a money swap with the Republican National Committee. Corporate money cannot legally be donated to candidates in Texas.
He faces two to 20 years in prison on a conspiracy charge and five to 99 years or life on a money laundering charge. He is free on bail, with sentencing tentatively set for Dec. 20.
DeLay and his family did not react when the verdict was read. But after the court was dismissed, DeLay received a hug and kiss from his wife, Christine. His adult daughter, Dani DeLay Garcia, buried her face against his shoulder and began sobbing. DeLay's face turned red as he fought back tears.
Defense attorney Dick DeGuerin called the verdict "a terrible miscarriage of justice" and pledged to appeal. "I'm very, very disappointed. This will never stand up."
DeLay, as from the outset, said the case was all politics.
"I'm not going to blame anyone. This is an abuse of power. … ," DeLay said. "And I still maintain that I am innocent. The criminalization of politics undermines our system."
Lead prosecutor Gary Cobb said the jury acted without a political agenda and made a decision based on the facts.
"We thought the citizens of Travis County would see this case for what it was, a corrupt politician who was caught violating the laws of the state," Cobb said.
The case originally was brought in 2005 by then-District Attorney Ronnie Earle. DeLay said Earle, a Democrat, was on a political vendetta.
Earle's successor, District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, noted that, as the DeLay case began, her office won a corruption conviction of state Rep. Kino Flores, D-Palmview. She said the cases together show there is nothing partisan about her investigators and prosecutors.
"This case is a message from the citizens of the state of Texas that the public officials they elect to represent them must do so honestly, ethically or else they will be held accountable," she said.
The six-man, six-woman jury promised each other that they would not talk to the media afterward. Visiting Judge Pat Priest assured them he would not immediately release their names.
Saga began in 2001
One juror agreed to speak briefly to reporters as long as neither the gender nor any identifying features be given away. The juror said the decision was based on the weight of the evidence.
"It was just everything," the juror said.
The saga began in 2001 when DeLay was the third most powerful member of the U.S. House as the majority whip. The GOP majority was a mere nine out of 435 members.
To guarantee a majority, Republican seats needed to be added, and one witness in the case described Texas as the "gold mine." To get a congressional redistricting plan that favored the GOP, the party had to get control of a Texas House that Democrats had held since Reconstruction.
DeLay already had a national political committee called Americans for a Republican Majority, run by Jim Ellis. DeLay decided to clone the organization and call it Texans for a Republican Majority. Ellis chose his friend John Colyandro to run it.
DeLay attended fundraisers and met with corporate donors to TRMPAC.
Timeline laid out
Testimony in the case showed TRMPAC was running too short of funds in the general election to make major donations to Republican House candidates. Colyandro and Ellis began to arrange for a swap of TRMPAC corporate money for donations given to the Republican National Committee by individuals.
Prosecutors laid out a timeline for jurors.
Aug. 27, 2002: DeLay met in his Sugar Land office with RNC Political Director Terry Nelson to discuss Republican prospects in congressional races nationally. Records indicate Ellis may have attended that meeting.
Sept. 10: Colyandro signed a blank check and had it sent to Ellis in Washington, D.C.
Sept. 11: A Federal Express receipt shows the check arrived at Ellis' office at 11:58 a.m. DeLay's calendar showed Ellis at a group meeting in DeLay's office from 1-2:30 p.m. Two DeLay aides testified that they did not believe DeLay attended the meeting.
Sept. 13: Ellis met with Nelson to arrange to swap $190,000 in corporate money from TRMPAC for donations to candidates from the RNC's noncorporate account. Ellis also gave Nelson a list of seven candidates who were to receive the $190,000 in candidate-eligible funds.
Oct. 2: DeLay's calendar showed he met with Ellis on ARMPAC business. DeGuerin said that was when Ellis told DeLay about the money swap. During the trial, DeLay told reporters he could have stopped the swap then, but thought it was legal.
Oct. 4: Checks totaling $190,000 were cut for the seven Texas House candidates.
The Republicans won a majority in the Texas House in the November 2002 elections. That led to a bitter redistricting battle in 2003. The new congressional district map resulted in the partisan majority in the Texas congressional delegation shifting from 17-15 favoring the Democrats to 21-11 favoring the Republicans.
Earle's office began looking into several allegations of campaign finance law violations in January 2003. Prosecutors interviewed DeLay in August 2005, and he then said he knew of the money exchange in advance.
DeLay later said he did not learn of it until after Ellis made the deal with Nelson.
Resigned from Congress
His indictment in October 2005 forced DeLay to resign as House majority leader.
When legal wrangling kept DeLay from getting a speedy trial, he resigned his congressional seat.
Colyandro and Ellis face similar charges in the case, but will be tried separately.
One of the biggest blows to DeLay in the trial occurred Wednesday when Priest told the jury that if there was a conspiracy, DeLay could have entered it at any time before the checks were delivered to the candidates. That meant DeLay could be a party to the conspiracy even if he became involved after Ellis cut the deal with Nelson.
DeGuerin has contended that no money laundering occurred because TRMPAC legally could raise corporate money and legally transfer it to the RNC. DeGuerin said the RNC then legally could send money raised from individuals to the candidates.
Cobb said what made the case money laundering was the list of candidates Ellis gave Nelson earmarking the corporate money.