In Austin, Texas, a jury has convicted former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering and the prominent and once very powerful Republican now faces anywhere from two to 99 years in prison. However, he plans to appeal the verdict.
As the verdict was read in court Wednesday, Tom DeLay stood quietly, although some witnesses say his face reddened and he appeared to be suppressing tears. Afterwards, he spoke to local reporters outside the courtroom.
"This is an abuse of power. It is a miscarriage of justice and I still maintain that I am innocent," Delay said. "The criminalization of politics undermines our very system. I am very disappointed."
DeLay's attorney, Dick DeGuerin, told reporters he would appeal the decision and that the verdict would never stand up on appeal.
But lead prosecutor Gary Cobb said the trial was fair and that the jury had made its decision based on the evidence presented in court, not on the basis of politics.
About the case
The case against DeLay was put together in 2005 by the then district attorney for Travis County, Ronnie Earle, a well-known Democrat who was seen by DeLay's defenders as operating with a political agenda. But the current district attorney, Rosemary Lehmberg denied there were any political considerations in this case. She also noted that her office convicted a Democratic state legislator on corruption charges and that this shows there is no partisan agenda at work.
DeLay was first elected to represent Texas' 22nd Congressional District in 1984 and resigned in 2006 after he was targeted by both an investigation here in Texas and a separate federal investigation into his ties with lobbyist Jack Abramoff. The federal case was dropped in August of this year. The Texas case was based on allegations that DeLay channeled $190,000 in corporate donations to Republican state legislative candidates here in Texas in 2002. Such use of corporate funds is illegal in Texas.
Gains by the Republicans in the 2002 election paved the way for changes in the boundaries of the state's Congressional districts, which political analysts say has helped Republicans win more districts in elections since then. DeLay was also controversial as majority leader in the U.S. Congress from 2003 to 2005. He was known as "The Hammer" for his tough approach to marshalling votes and his strident advocacy for conservative positions.
Tom DeLay was out of the public eye in recent years except for a series of appearances as a dancer on a popular U.S. television program, "Dancing with the Stars," in 2009. He now runs a consulting firm in the Houston suburb of Sugarland, which is in the 22nd Congressional district that he once represented.