Monday, January 10, 2011

Tom DeLay sentenced

A very small penalty for horrendous ethical violations.

"DeLay Sentenced to 3 Years in Money Laundering Case"


James C. McKinley Jr.

January 10th, 2011

The New York Times

Tom DeLay, the former House majority leader, was sentenced to three years in prison on Monday after convictions for money laundering and conspiracy stemming from his role in a scheme to channel corporate contributions to Texas state races in 2002.

Mr. DeLay, once one of the most powerful and polemical Republican congressmen in the state’s history, was ushered out of Travis County Court after the sentencing and was taken by sheriff’s deputies to the county jail, where he was expected to post a $10,000 bond and be released pending an appeal.

After listening to Mr. DeLay say he felt he had done nothing wrong, Judge Pat Priest sentenced him to three years in prison for the conspiracy count and 10 years’ probation for the money laundering count. The judge rejected arguments from Mr. DeLay that the trial had been a politically motivated vendetta mounted by an overzealous Democratic District Attorney.

“Before there were Republicans and Democrats, there was America, and what America is about is the rule of law,” the judge said just before pronouncing the sentence.

In November, a jury convicted Mr. DeLay of money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering in an unusual trial. It was the first time the money-laundering law had been used in Texas against a politician who had circumvented the state ban on corporate money.

The evidence at the trial showed that Mr. DeLay and two associates illegally channeled $190,000 in corporate donations in 2002 to several Republcian candidates for the state legislature, using the Republican National Committee as a conduit. Texas bans corporations from giving directly to political campaigns.

The donations were seen as critical in the Republican takeover of the state legislature that year. Once they had control, Texas Republcian leaders pushed through a controversial congressional redistricting plan — engineered by Mr. DeLay — that sent more Texas Republicans to Congress in 2004 and helped to consolidate his power in Washington.

Before his sentencing, Mr. DeLay said he was perplexed about how the criminal code could be applied to what he did. The practice of swapping corporate contributions given to state committees for individual contributions given to national parties was commonplace in 2002, he said. “I never intended to break the law — I have always played by the rules,” he told the judge.

“I cannot be remorseful for something I didn’t think I did,” he said.

As he has since the start of the trial, Mr. DeLay portrayed himself as the victim of a sustained campaign of politically motivated prosecutions by Democrats on both the state and Federal levels for more than 15 years. His voice broke as he described the pain of losing his right to vote. “I cannot tell you what that means to me,” he said.

Mr. Delay’s attorney, Dick DeGuerin, said he expected the convictions to be overturned on appeal. The appeal will argue, among other things, that the money-laundering law should not apply to the transactions, since the money did not come from an illegal activity. He has said that Mr. DeLay may also raise a First Amendment claim, arguing that the entire Texas law that he was accused of evading is unconstitutional in the wake of the Citizens United decision by the United States Supreme Court. “This will not stand,” he said.

The Travis County District Attorney, Rosemary Lehmberg, denied that the prosecution was a form of political payback. Though her office had asked the judge to give Mr. DeLay a longer sentence of 10 years in prison, she said the sentence the judge handed down seemed fair to her.

Mr. DeLay is likely to remain free while his appeal wends its way through the courts, since he was given a sentence of less than 10 years, Ms. Lehmberg said.

Mr. DeLay is likely to remain free for months or even years while his appeal wends its way through the courts, Ms. Lehmberg said. In Texas, only people sentenced to more than 10 years must serve time while waiting for their appeal. Others can post a bond.

Before sentencing, Mr. DeGuerin had argued Mr. DeLay should be given only probation. He said the former politician had already paid a high price, losing his position in Congress.

Dennis Hastert, a Illinois politician who was House Speaker from 1999 to 2006,testified on DeLay’s behalf before Judge Priest announced his decision. He said Mr. DeLay was not power-hungry, but was driven by a deep-seeded need to help others. He portrayed Mr. DeLay as a principled man with religious values who had worked hard to cut taxes. He also described Mr. DeLay’s work helping foster children and the assistance he gave to relatives of a police officers killed during a 1998 shooting at the U.S. Capitol in Washington.

"That’s the real Tom DeLay that a lot of people never got to see," Mr. Hastert said.

Mr. Delay, who represented a slice of Houston’s southern suburbs for 22 years, was forced to resign his position as the second most powerful member of the House in 2005 after a grand jury indicted him in Texas. He was also under investigation by the Justice Department for his relationship with Jack Abramoff, the Washington lobbyist convicted in an influence peddling scandal. But that inquiry never led to an indictment and was ended last summer.

In the House, he was known as “The Hammer” for his no-hold-barred style of politicking and campaigning. He was serving as the Majority Whip in 2002, marshaling the Republicans to support President Bush’s agenda at a time when the G.O.P. had a very thin majority.

Evidence at trial showed Mr. DeLay and two of his top political aides saw a Repunblican takeover of the statehouse as the key to boosting the Republican’s power in Washington by pushing through a new redistricting plan for Texas.

Mr. DeLay offered no apologies for having succeeded in doing just that. He said he had played by the rules as he understood them and had fought for his conservative values.

“I have fought the fight, run the race and kept the faith,” he told the judge.

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