Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, earlier convicted on conspiracy and money laundering charges in Texas, today was sentenced by Judge Pat Priest to three years in prison. The sentence was directly on the conspiracy charge; on money laundering, his five-year sentence was probated for 10 years, and so he will serve 10 years’ probation.
Prosecutors would like to see DeLay go to jail immediately:
DeLay was taken into custody but he was expected to be released as soon as he posted an appeals bond.
Travis County prosecutors argued that Tom DeLay should go to prison today.
“He needs to go to prison, your Honor, and he needs to go today,” said prosecutor Steven Brand.
Brand said the judge could send a message that no one is above the law.
DeLay’s lawyer, Dick DeGuerin, said the jury’s verdict sent a message.
“Tom DeLay was convicted of a felony,” he said. “That alone is consequence is enough.”
DeGuerin said his client accepts the jury’s verdict but does not agree with it and will fight it.
DeLay had the choice of allowing the judge or the jury to determine the punishment, and he chose the judge. Prosecutors wanted at least 10 years in prison, so DeLay got off relatively light.
He spoke to the court prior to sentencing, saying “I fought the fight. I ran the race. I kept the faith.” Former Speaker Denny Hastert also testified as a character witness on behalf of DeLay. Prosecutors showed a tape in court of DeLay’s comments after conviction, when he said, “Maybe we can get it before people who understand the law.”
I’d expect an appeal, so whether or not DeLay sees jail time right away depends on the judge’s decision to allow his release on bond.
The case concerns DeLay’s PAC illegally laundering corporate money through the RNC, to the tune of $190,000, to state legislative candidates in Texas. State laws bar corporate spending, direct or indirect, on elections. Those legislative candidates eventually won, flipping the legislature to Republicans, and they used that power to push through a partisan redistricting scheme that bolstered DeLay’s Republican House majorities.