Saturday, October 22, 2005

Throwing in the kitchen sink (but not yet the towel)

A lot of random noise swirling around the case against Tom DeLay, much of it being generated by the criminal defendant himself. This Reuters article states, very clearly, just why that is:

DeLay was once one of the nation's most powerful politicians, nicknamed "The Hammer" for his iron-fisted control of House Republicans, but now is an accused felon fighting for his political life by casting himself as the victim of a Democratic plot.
I practiced law for a few years in Austin, and always had the highest respect for the judges. While Texas judges are elected, I never found one of them to be partisan in the court room. Austin was a small town, in many ways, and the lawyers all knew the judges, and basically elected the judges (almost no one outside of the lawyers paid attention to who the judges were on the ballot). I think Bob Perkins was on the bench when I was there. In any case, this certainly sounds like the kind of response I would expect from any judge faced with this kind of accusation of bias:

DeLay attorney Dick DeGuerin, one of Texas' most prominent defense attorneys, told reporters after the hearing that Perkins had contributed to and to Democratic candidates since the case came into his court a year ago.

DeGuerin told Perkins that was selling T-shirts of DeLay's mug shot taken after he turned himself in on Thursday. DeLay, who was fingerprinted and put up bail of $10,000, is smiling broadly in the mug shot.

"I have never seen that T-shirt, number one. Number two, I haven't bought it. Number three, the last time I contributed to MoveOn that I know of was prior to the November election last year when they were primarily helping Senator Kerry," Perkins said.
DeGuerin is trying this case in the press. The case against his client is this:

[DeLay] and colleagues Jim Ellis and John Colyandro have been indicted by state grand juries in Austin for conspiracy and money laundering in a campaign-finance scheme conducted through DeLay's political action committee.

They are accused of laundering $190,000 in corporate campaign contributions through the Republican National Committee for distribution to Republican candidates for the Texas Legislature. Texas law forbids the use of corporate money in political campaigns.
DeLay's defense is not that these actions didn't take place, but that this is not illegal, because the state law banning such contributions, is unconstitutional.

He wants to get off on a "technicality," in other words. In criminal law, "technicalities" only exist when a poor person uses them. When the rich and powerful use them, they are seeking "justice." But I digress.

DeLay's defense, by and large, hinges on a ruling that the law under which he is charged cannot be enforced. That challenge is pending in the Texas appellate courts, which means the issue may not be decided until the U.S. Supreme Court has been asked to rule on the matter (whether that is even feasible, I don't know, but I presume the challenge in on First Amendment grounds, which would certainly allow the Federal courts to get involved). There are also reports that the House wants this matter resolved by January. GOP members of the House reportedly want a "permanent" leader in place for the 2006 elections, and DeLay can't take that position as long as a trial is pending.

Which would mean DeLay is caught between a rock and a hard place. If the appellate process moves slowly, this matter will be in the court for years. Speaking of the appellate process, that is the reason for all of the pre-trial activitiy in this case. DeLay cannot complain on appeal about something done at the trial court level if he didn't try to get it done, and his request was denied. What he's engaging here, is the classic "kitchen sink" defense. If he doesn't ask for it now, he can't complain later that he didn't get it.

But, as this New York Times article makes clear, everything DeGuerin and Perkins are quoted as saying, was said not for the press, but in open court. Wheich tells me DeLay's defense is weak indeed, because MoveOn is right: quickly denied that it had been selling DeLay T-shirts. "DeGuerin has either bad information or lied in court," said Tom Matzzie, the group's Washington director. "Americans are sick of the corruption in Congress and think it will be a better place without Tom DeLay."
And Congress may soon be without Tom DeLay; at least as Majority leader.

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