Lawyers for former House majority leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) asked a Texas court yesterday to quash his indictment on Oct. 3 for money laundering in the 2002 election on the grounds that the charge resulted from misconduct by the Texas prosecutor overseeing the case.
The Texas prosecutor promptly disputed the claim.
The motion, introduced in Austin, followed the themes struck by DeLay in public appearances since the grand jury's action, but it also added new details to his allegations of wrongdoing by Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle in the past two weeks. That was the period in which Earle presented the facts of his case to three separate grand juries and obtained two indictments that named three specific charges.
One was an allegation of conspiracy by DeLay and two political aides to violate Texas election laws by injecting illegal corporate contributions into state election campaigns. The other two were allegations that DeLay and his aides laundered the illegal corporate contributions through the Republican National Committee in Washington, and that they conspired together in organizing the scheme.
The DeLay legal team's motion yesterday alleged that Earle and his staff, after realizing that the initial indictment of DeLay on Sept. 28 for conspiracy lacked a credible legal basis, "engaged in an extraordinarily irregular, and desperate attempt to contrive a viable charge and get a substitute indictment" -- namely, the allegation of money laundering.
The motion said that in so doing, Earle and his staff first improperly "attempted to browbeat and coerce" a second grand jury into bringing the new charge. It said that after failing to do so, they tried "to cover up and delay public disclosure" of the decision by the second grand jury.
The motion further alleged that Earle and his staff then "unlawfully incited" the foreman of the first grand jury, John Gibson, to speak openly about the case "in an effort to bias the public and sitting grand jurors" in Texas.
It said Earle and his staff then spoke with members of the first grand jury and solicited their opinion of "what they might have done had they known" the indictment for conspiracy had no legal basis.
The motion asserted that the jurors' answers to this question constituted the "additional information" that Earle said this week he had obtained last weekend and presented to a third grand jury on Monday, which in response voted to indict DeLay on the money-laundering charges. According to the motion, the views of former grand jurors are "not evidence" and using them before a grand jury violates the Texas criminal procedures code.
Earle's office, asked to respond to the new DeLay motion, issued a written statement saying that "these claims have no merit."
"Because of the laws protecting grand jury secrecy, no other comments can be made," the statement said. "The investigation is continuing."
Earle's spokesman, Rudy Magallanes, nonetheless went further, saying flatly that "there is no truth to these claims."