A Texas judge has told attorneys for Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) that pretrial hearings in DeLay's money-laundering and conspiracy case will not be held until after Christmas.

The lawyers had sought earlier hearings on their separate motions to move any trial out of Austin and to gain a dismissal of the charges against the former House majority leader because of alleged prosecutorial misconduct. But Senior Judge Pat Priest said in a letter that his calendar is too full until after the holiday.

Priest also said a trial date depends on whether the prosecutor appeals the judge's decision earlier this week to dismiss on legal grounds a separate conspiracy indictment. He said that "I am fine with . . . planning a trial setting early next year" but that an appeal would force a delay.

DeLay, 58, along with GOP fundraisers John Colyandro and James W. Ellis, is accused of illegally funneling $190,000 in corporate donations to 2002 legislative candidates in Texas. Under state law, corporate money cannot be directly used for election purposes. DeLay has denied the charges.

Priest further indicated DeLay will have to share a trial with Ellis and Colyandro, and to be tried on money-laundering and related conspiracy charges at the same time.

Defense attorneys had wanted the cases separated so DeLay's could proceed more quickly.

-- From Staff Reports

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