Monday, November 29, 2010

Jury convicts former GOP leader

Updated: Wednesday, 24 Nov 2010, 6:42 PM CST
Published : Wednesday, 24 Nov 2010, 6:39 PM CST

AUSTIN (KXAN) - Once one of the most powerful and feared Republicans in Congress, ex-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay could be headed to prison. He was convicted today on charges he illegally funneled corporate money to Texas GOP candidates in 2002.

DeLay has had a cloud hanging over him for almost a decade. Accusations led to his downfall as House Majority Leader and his eventual resignation from the House of Representatives in 2006.

In the courtroom, DeLay's expression did not change when the verdict was read, just before 5 p.m. on Wednesday. Afterwards, he turned and hugged his wife and the left the courtroom to briefly speak to media and then he left courthouse, still free on bond from an earlier phase of the trial.

The two guilty verdicts -- one on money laundering and one on conspiracy to commit money laundering --? stem from 2002 when DeLay took $190,000 from corporations and sent it on to the Republican National Committee, which then made $190,000 in contributions to Texas statehouse candidates.

It's illegal under Texas state law to make contributions to statehouse candidates with corporate money.

DeLay maintained that what he did was not against the law and is, in fact, a common practice among politicians. DeLay's efforts are credited with creating a more Republican friendly redistricting map in Texas.

"This is an abuse of power, a miscarriage of justice, and I still maintain that I am innocent," DeLay said before he departed the Travis County courthouse. "The criminalization of politics undermines our entire system."

"It's the outcome we expected. we thought the citizens of Travis County would see this for what it was, a corrupt politician that caught violating the laws of the state," said District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg.

DeLay was able to leave the courthouse on a previous bond for this case. He will be back in court on Dec. 20, when the sentencing part of this trial will take place. For both charges, DeLay faces minimum probation and a maximum sentence of 99 years in jail.

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