The jury in former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay’s corruption trial began deliberating Monday after both sides made their closing arguments. And they were already questioning the charges against him.
The Austin-American Statesman reports that jurors yesterday sent a series of notes to the judge, asking him about the charges. “Can it constitute money laundering if the money wasn’t procured by illegal means originally?” one note read.
DeLay is charged with money laundering. Prosecutors say he orchestrated a money swap in 2002 in which his Texas PAC collected $190,000 and sent it to the RNC, which turned around and gave $190,000 to several state house candidates hand-picked by the PAC. DeLay’s lawyers have argued both that the swap was legal and that DeLay did not know about the swap until after it was done.
From the Statesman:
After the six-man, six-woman jury had been behind closed doors for about four hours, Priest received a second note from jurors in a similar vein, this one questioning whether money laundering can involve funds that were not initially accepted for an illegal purpose.
Priest expressed concern about how to answer the jury’s questions without commenting on evidence in the case. He delayed a decision on answering until 9 a.m. [Tuesday], when the jury is to begin deliberating anew.
But this morning, according to the Statesman, the judge declined to answer the question. He told the jury to figure it out for themselves,
Much of the prosecution’s case has focused on a 2005 interview in which DeLay told investigators he knew about the swap beforehand. He now says he misspoke. The prosecution also may have gotten a bit of a boost when the defense showed that DeLay had been at a meeting with the director of his PAC just hours after he got a check to send to the RNC.
DeLay did not take the stand.
If convicted, DeLay could face up to life in prison, according to the Associated Press. If acquitted, he says he’s planning a return to politics.