Former Rep. DeLay Convicted Of Money Laundering

A jury in Texas has convicted former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay on money laundering charges. The Republican faces up to life in prison. Guest host Mary Louise Kelly talks with Matt Largey of member station KUT in Austin about the verdict.

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, host:

It's been five years since money laundering charges ended Tom DeLay's political career. The case against the former House majority leader has been making its way through Texas courts. And today, after 19 hours of deliberation, jurors reached a verdict: Guilty on both counts.

Reporter Matt Largey of member station KUT in Austin has been following developments at the courthouse all day. And Matt, remind us exactly what were the charges Tom DeLay faced.

MATT LARGEY: Well, he faced two charges: One was money laundering and the other was conspiracy to commit money laundering. And basically, both of those charges were connected to this money swap of $190,000 in corporate donations that were transferred from DeLay's Texans for a Republican Majority PAC here in Texas and up to the Republican National Committee in Washington, and then back down to seven candidates for Texas State Legislature here.

Of course, it's illegal for candidates in Texas to take corporate money, and so essentially, DeLay was charged with circumventing that law by laundering this money through the RNC.

KELLY: Now, these were charges steaming from 2002, back when Tom DeLay was one of the most powerful lawmakers on Capitol Hill. And he has always claimed that these charges were politically motivated. Clearly, the jury today didn't buy that.

LARGEY: That's true. I mean, yes, as you said, he has always maintained his innocence here. His lawyer argued that essentially, this money swap that I mentioned before was basically common practice among political campaigns and political action committees.

So he said that there was really no crime being done here, that this transfer of the corporate money up to Washington was perfectly legal and that it was perfectly legal for the RNC to transfer this money back down here to Texas.

KELLY: Well, with him being found guilty today, do we know what sort of sentence he might face on these two charges?

LARGEY: Well, these charges carries a maximum of 99 years in prison. It also carries a pretty hefty fine.

Prosecutors, after the verdict was read, said that they hadn't really talked much about sentencing at this point, so it's not really clear what they're going to recommend for a sentence yet.

KELLY: Matt, you were at the courthouse all day, as we mentioned. Were you able to gauge what the reaction was from Tom DeLay as the jurors delivered this verdict?

LARGEY: As the verdict was read, he didn't show that much emotion. He was pretty blank-faced, actually. But after the verdict was read, after he and his lawyer came out of the courtroom, obviously, he said that he was very disappointed.

Mr. TOM DeLAY (Former Republican House Majority Leader): This is an abuse of power. It's a miscarriage of justice. And I still maintain that I am innocent, that the criminalization of politics undermines our very system. And I'm very disappointed in the outcome.

LARGEY: And, of course, he and his lawyer said that they do plan to file an appeal.

KELLY: Of course. Well - and I was going to ask, I don't know if Tom DeLay was planning to mount any sort of political comeback down the road. Does today's verdict shut the door on that?

LARGEY: He has said in the past that he didn't have any plans to mount another political campaign. But if he did in fact harbor any secret desires to do that, I think after today's verdict, that's pretty much out of the question.

KELLY: Okay. Thanks, Matt.

LARGEY: Thank you.

KELLY: That's reporter Matt Largey of member station KUT in Austin, updating us on the news today that a jury in Texas has convicted former House majority leader Tom DeLay on money laundering charges.

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