DeLay convicted of money laundering and conspiracy charges

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After three days of deliberations, a Travis County jury convicted former U.S. House Majority Tom DeLay of money laundering and conspiracy charges on Wednesday. The trial, which lasted for about a month, stemmed from DeLay's scheme to help fund a conservative Republican takeover of the Texas House in 2002, which was key to the controversial 2003 redrawing of Texas’ congressional districts. “By the time the trial ended, [the jurors] could see that it was more than just a lot of smoke, there was a lot of fire involved in this evidence," said Gary Cobb, the lead prosecutor on the case. Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg said the jury’s conviction on both counts of the indictment showed the strength of their case. The money laundering conviction is first degree felony that carries a sentence of 5 to 99 years in prison or probation. The conspiracy charge is a second degree felony and carries a potential sentence of 2-20 years in prison or probation. Lehmberg said her office has not considered a sentence recommendation for DeLay. Sentencing has been tentatively schedule for Dec. 20. Dick DeGuerin, Tom DeLay’s defense attorney, promised to appeal the conviction. “To say I’m shocked would be an understatement,” said DeGuerin. “This is a terrible miscarriage of justice. We will appeal.” Tom DeLay thanked God before attacking the verdict handed down by the six men and six women who served on the jury. “I’m not going to blame anybody, this is an abuse of power,” DeLay said. “I still maintain that I’m innocent and that the criminalization of politics undermines our very system. Maybe we can get it before people who understand the law.” On Tuesday, DeGuerin told reporters in the courtroom that if there were a conviction, he would consider appealing on constitutional grounds — arguing Texas’ ban on corporate campaign contributions is a violation of the First Amendment. Once one of the most powerful politicians in Washington, D.C., the former House majority leader's fall from power sprung directly from his efforts to finance and engineer the controversial 2003 redistricting of Texas’ congressional districts. DeLay’s Texas political action committee, Texans for a Republican Majority, sent $190,000 in corporate campaign contributions to an arm of the Republican National Committee in October 2002, along with a list of seven candidates to donate money to and how much money to send to each campaign. Just a few days later, the RNC sent a total of $190,000 from a separate bank account — money that could be contributed to campaigns in Texas — to the seven listed candidates. The Travis County District Attorney charged that the money swap was money laundering and indicted DeLay. His defense claimed it was standard practice in politics. “I don’t think there’s enough money in politics,” DeLay said. “Money is corruptible to the corruptible, it is up to the individual. There is nothing wrong with participating in the process and [raising money to help] candidates get elected. I’m not ashamed of anything I’ve done.”