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Justices agree to consider hearing DeLay's money laundering case

Web Posted: 12/28/2005 03:49 PM CST

Lisa Sandberg
Express-News Austin Bureau

AUSTIN — Media reports that U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay had convinced the state's highest court to hear his appeal were as widely circulated as they were, well, wrong.

Justices for the Texas Court Criminal Appeals agreed merely to consider hearing DeLay's money laundering case. They never said they would accept the case, said Edward Marty, the court's general counsel.

The erroneous media reports, which the San Antonio Express-News published in a wire story and displayed online, come from DeLay's spokesman, Kevin Madden, in an e-mail sent to reporters Tuesday evening, after courts had closed for the night.

“FYI-Breaking news out of Austin, TX,” the e-mail stated. “The state Court of Criminal Appeals has agreed to hear Mr. DeLay's habeas motion that was filed at the end of last week. The court has set a one-week deadline for briefs to be filed by the parties involved. The court could essentially decide to end Ronnie Earle's prosecution after hearing this motion and the facts presented.”

Madden said this afternoon that he made an error and never intended to “spin” the story.

“In an effort to be instantaneous, I wasn't precise.....My understanding (of the decision) was correct. The way I relayed it wasn't,” he said.

University of Texas School of Law professor George Dix said the court's decision not to reject DeLay's appeal outright was like not slamming a door in DeLay's face. Dix likened it to a stranger who walks up to a guy's house looking for money.

First, the stranger has to get the man in the house to answer the door and agree to let him make his pitch. Then the stranger has to convince the guy to fork over the money.

This decision “is like seeing who's at the door,” Dix said. “Things haven't gone as bad (for DeLay) as they could have gone.”

The court gave state prosecutors one week to submit briefs.

DeLay and two political associates face money laundering charges in connection with a scheme prosecutors say illegally put corporate money into the coffers of GOP candidates running in 2002 for the Texas House.

The former House Majority Leader, who was forced to resign his leadership post the day he was indicted, asked the state's highest court on Friday to either dismiss the charges or order the lower courts to try him in January. He hopes to be absolved of the charges before Congress finds a permanent replacement for the post.