Thursday, October 20, 2005
Former REPUBLICAN House Majority Leader Tom DeLay Arrested!
By R.G. RATCLIFFE and DALE LEZON
Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle
U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay dodged reporters and photographers awaiting his arrest in Fort Bend County today to surrender to Harris County sheriff's deputies on conspiracy and money laundering charges.
DeLay, accompanied by lawyer Dick DeGuerin, arrived shortly after noon at a Harris County Sheriff's Department facility at 49 San Jacinto, said sheriff's Lt. John Martin.
The Sugar Land Republican was fingerprinted, photographed, taken before a judge, posted $10,000 bail and left shortly before 1 p.m. His lawyer told reporters DeLay was put through the process because of a political vendetta by Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle, the Democrat who brought the case.
"Now Ronnie Earle has the mugshot he wanted,'' DeGuerin said.
"I wanted to avoid the circus,'' DeGuerin added. "He wanted a perp walk, and we did not want to do it.''
DeGuerin said the Harris County site was selected in part because his own offices are based in downtown Houston. But the surrender in Harris County allowed DeLay to avoid news media coverage. Journalists had been staking out the Fort Bend County sheriff's office since Wednesday.
Although the indictment was issued in Travis County and DeLay's home county is Fort Bend, Martin said state law allows defendants to surrender in any county, and DeLay received no special treatment.
Fort Bend County Sheriff Milton Wright said DeGuerin had asked Wednesday if DeLay could come in and out of the sheriff's office unnoticed.
Wright said he told DeGuerin that even if DeLay could come in through a back door to avoid the media, "he would have had to come out the front."
Since the first day DeLay was indicted by a Travis County grand jury last month, his attorneys had been trying to avoid a public spectacle of him being arrested.
But Travis County prosecutors had played legal hardball Wednesday by having an arrest warrant issued for DeLay. DeGuerin said it was retaliation for their accusations of prosecutor misconduct.
The capias warrant by state District Judge Bob Perkins normally would have been a routine procedure in Texas after a person has been indicted on a felony. It requires that the defendant be arrested and have fingerprints and a mug-shot taken.
When DeLay was first indicted Sept. 28, his lawyers convinced Earle to have District Judge Mike Lynch issue a summons, which would have legally allowed DeLay to avoid booking.
Earle on Wednesday said he decided against asking for a summons for DeLay on a second set of indictments that was returned Oct. 3.
"We believe Congressman Delay should be treated like everyone else," Earle said.
Deguerin said the arrest warrant was issued because the defense team for DeLay and co-defendants Jim Ellis and John Colyandro have spent the last two weeks filing briefs claiming prosecutor misconduct by Earle.
"It's retaliation plain and simple," DeGuerin said. "He's retaliating because we haven't given him any quarter."
DeGuerin has raised questions about the Sept. 28 indictments, which alleged DeLay conspired to violate state election laws by using corporate money to help Republican candidates for the Texas House in 2002. DeGuerin claims the conspiracy statute did not apply to the election law until 2003.
After that came up, Earle took money laundering charges to one grand jury on Sept. 30, but it declined to indict DeLay. Earle then took the case on Oct. 3 to a third grand jury, which indicted DeLay on conspiracy and money laundering charges.
DeLay is accused of involvement with $190,000 in corporate money that was sent from a Texas committee to the Republican National Committee.
The indictment alleges that money was exchanged illegally for money that could be legally donated to seven candidates for the Texas House.
The Associated Press and Houston Chronicle reporter Samantha Levine contributed to this story from Washington, D.C..
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