By William Branigin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 19, 2005 5:09 PM
A Texas court today issued an arrest warrant for Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), the powerful former House majority leader, ordering him to appear for booking at a county jail in his home district.
The court in Travis County, Tex., set bail for DeLay at $10,000, and a lawyer for the embattled congressman said it would be posted.
Dick DeGuerin, the lead counsel on DeLay's defense team, said the arrest warrant was "a matter of routine," the Associated Press reported.
However, the defense reportedly had hoped to avoid submitting DeLay, formerly the second-ranking Republican leader in the House, to the fingerprinting and mug shot photography that accompanies a formal arrest.
The procedure was required before DeLay makes his first court appearance Friday on conspiracy and money laundering charges in connection with an allegedly illegal campaign financing scheme.
Officially called a "writ of capias," the arrest warrant was a "purely procedural event," but it would require DeLay to surrender to authorities to be fingerprinted and photographed, Travis County Grand Jury Clerk Linda Estrada said, according to Reuters news agency.
A spokesman for DeLay, Kevin Madden, said this was "standard operating procedure" and came as no surprise to defense attorneys.
DeLay was ordered to show up for booking at the Fort Bend County jail in the Houston metropolitan area. It was not immediately clear when he would do so.
A Texas grand jury indicted DeLay Sept. 28 on a criminal count of conspiring with two political associates to violate state campaign finance law. The indictment prompted DeLay to announce that he was temporarily stepping down as House majority leader in accordance with GOP rules.
DeLay denounced the charge against him as "reckless," and he accused the Democratic district attorney prosecuting the case, Ronnie Earle, of being "an unabashed partisan zealot" out to avenge political defeats in Texas.
The indictment, issued on the last day of the grand jury's term, accused DeLay of criminally conspiring to inject illegal corporate contributions into 2002 state elections that ultimately helped the Republican Party redraw congressional boundaries in Texas, leading to victories in the 2004 elections that cemented GOP control of the House of Representatives in Washington. At issue are corporate campaign contributions totaling $190,000 that prosecutors say were illegally channeled through the Republican National Committee for distribution to GOP candidates for the state legislature. Under Texas law, it is illegal to use corporate funds to elect state candidates.
DeLay was accused of conspiring with two associates: John D. Colyandro, the former executive director of a political action committee in Texas that was formed by DeLay, and James W. Ellis, the head of DeLay's national political committee. Colyandro and Ellis had previously been charged in an indictment that did not name DeLay.
Earle obtained a new indictment on Oct. 3 from another grand jury accusing DeLay of money laundering as part of the campaign financing scheme.
DeLay's attorneys filed a motion to quash the indictment on grounds of "prosecutorial misconduct" by Earle. The motion asserted that Earle's original conspiracy indictment charged DeLay with "a crime that did not exist in Texas law." As a result, it said, Earle then "unlawfully" engaged in an "irregular and desperate attempt" to obtain a substitute indictment for money laundering before a statute of limitations ran out on Oct. 3.