Tom DeLay, former U.S. House leader, sentenced to 3 years in prison
By R. Jeffrey Smith
January 10, 2011
Former House majority leader Tom DeLay, the brash Texan who helped build and tightly control a Republican majority in his chamber for three years, was sentenced by a state judge on Monday to three years in prison for illegally plotting to funnel corporate contributions to Texas legislative candidates in 2002.
State Senior Judge Pat Priest, citing the need for those who write the laws to "be bound by them," briskly rejected DeLay's impassioned argument that he was the victim of political persecution and improperly accused of breaking the law for doing what "everybody was doing."
Priest said he agreed with a jury's verdict in November that DeLay had committed a felony by conspiring to launder corporate money into the state election, and ordered bailiffs to take DeLay - who was wearing a navy blue suit and his trademark American-flag lapel pin - to jail immediately. That was averted only when DeLay's attorneys quickly posted a $10,000 bond.
Priest also sentenced DeLay to five years in prison on a separate felony conviction of money laundering, but agreed to let him serve 10 years of community service instead of jail time for that charge. Priest acknowledged that DeLay - who said he had already raised and spent millions of dollars on his defense - would appeal the verdict to higher courts.
But he rejected DeLay's contention that the prosecution's novel use of a money-laundering statute - meant to target bank robbers, drug dealers and criminal fraud - was unjust.
Its use was justified, Priest said emphatically, because the crime for which DeLay was convicted was itself novel. DeLay was accused of transferring $190.000 in corporate funds to the Republican National Committee's coffers in Washington and returning the same amount in checks to state candidates.
Priest spoke so quickly and carefully that it seemed he had at least partially made up his mind up before the day's hearing began. But DeLay and his lead attorney, Richard DeGuerin, may have undercut their plea for probation and community service by declining to show any contrition, a factor that normally weighs in a judge's sentencing deliberations.
"I can't be remorseful for something I don't think I did," said DeLay, who had been silent in front of the jury even while he insisted on his innocence during numerous press conferences outside the courtroom.
Lead prosecutor Gary Cobb repeatedly called attention to DeLay's defiance, asking the judge at one point if refusing to accept responsibility could properly be called a "conservative value." ...