Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) has chalked up one win in a pretrial hearing that began yesterday: He will be tried before his co-defendants.
DeLay, who was charged in 2005 with money laundering, has been pushing for a trial for five years. Prosecutors wanted to try two other defendants, former aides of DeLay’s first; but the judge denied them.
“We need to try Mr. DeLay first because he’s the one who has been wanting a trial,” state District Judge Pat Priest said, according to the Houston Chronicle. “There’s such a thing as a speedy trial and five years later it’s time he gets it.”
Priest also signaled that he would likely deny DeLay’s lawyers’ motions to dismiss the charges. He has not yet ruled on DeLay’s motion to move the trial out of Travis County, which DeLay argues is too liberal to give him a fair trial.
Prosecutors say DeLay broke the law when he and two aides donated $190,000 in corporate money to the Republican National Committee in 2002, which in turn donated that same amount to seven Texas candidates. Because it’s illegal in Texas for state candidates to take corporate money, prosecutors say DeLay’s actions amount to money laundering.
DeLay contends that the donations were on the up-and-up, and that the money he donated and the money the RNC put into Texas were from two separate accounts.
Although DeLay has fought for a quicker trial, he said he won’t let go even after the trial is over. He told reporters, according to the Dallas Morning News, that after the trial he’ll go after the prosecutors that indicted him.
“After this is over,” he said, “we’re going after the constitutionality of a locally elected district attorney that can go after federally elected people in Travis County. There’s so much unconstitutional in this whole thing. We’re not just going to give up with this trial. We’re going to reform the justice system that allows this kind of thing to happen.”
Part of this week’s hearing focuses on whether the district attorney improperly got indictments out of a grand jury as the statute of limitations ran out in 2005.