Earlier today, Tom DeLay’s lawyers moved to dismiss Ronnie Earle’s conspiracy indictment on the ground that Texas’s conspiracy statute had no application to the election laws until it was amended in 2003–subsequent to the 2002 election cycle that is the subject of the indictment. The Austin Statesman notes that the term of the grand jury that Earle used to indict DeLay expired last week, and the statute of limitation may have run in the meantime.
DeLay’s lawyer, Dick DeGuerin, adds an interesting observation:
DeLay’s lawyer Dick DeGuerin said “rumors are flying” that prosecutors were trying to find a sitting grand jury, who hadn’t heard any of the DeLay case, to return a new money-laundering indictment.
As most of our readers probably know, grand jury proceedings are ex parte, which means that the DA has the grand jury all to himself. The target of an investigation, like DeLay, doesn’t get to be represented by counsel and participate in the proceedings. Now that the indictment has been leveled, however, the playing field is even. DeLay gets to hire a lawyer–he’s hired a very good one–and he gets equal time with the Court. It will be interesting to see what happens from here.
UPDATE: Sure enough, just a few minutes ago Earle got a new grand jury to indict DeLay on a new charge of “money laundering,” which I assume we can take as an acknowledgement that the original charge can’t stick. DeLay issued a statement in response to the new indictment:
Ronnie Earle has stooped to a new low with his brand of prosecutorial abuse. He is trying to pull the legal equivalent of a ‘do-over’ since he knows very well that the charges he brought against me last week are totally manufactured and illegitimate. This is an abomination of justice.
Sounds right to me. Earle may be routed again, as he was when he brought a specious indictment against Kay Hutchison. It helps a lot when you get to hire a lawyer and defend yourself, doesn’t it?
ONE MORE THING: If I understand the news reports correctly, Earle just started scrambling around today, or at best within the last day or two, looking for a new grand jury with no prior knowledge of the DeLay matter. And he already had an indictment for “money laundering” by this afternoon? Unbelievable. If this is really correct, someone in Texas needs to take a hard look at their criminal justice system.
FINALLY, I PROMISE: The reprehensible Ronnie Earle admitted in a press conference on September 28 that he wasn’t able to get a “money laundering” indictment out of the grand jury that had been sitting in this matter for goodness knows how many months. Now, in a matter of hours, he has gotten a brand new grand jury to return such an indictment–ex parte, with the grand jury hearing from no one but Earle and, presumably, a witness or two. It might be possible to imagine a more partisan, corrupt prosecutor than Ronnie Earle, but that’s a thought experiment I’d rather not conduct.
OK, SO SUE ME: I can’t resist a bit more from MSNBC’s Abrams Report tonight–an interview with Dick DeGuerin, Tom DeLay’s lawyer:
Abrams: Thanks for coming back on the program. I haven’t even had a chance to look at this indictment. Tell me what it’s about.
DeGuerin: I haven’t seen it either, but I’ll tell you what happened. Earlier today, a motion was filed that spelled out for Ronnie Earle in terms that even he could even understand that there is no such thing as a conspiracy to violate the Texas election code. So the original indictment doesn’t charge a crime. So I guess this is his reaction that he had to rush back to the grand jury and charge some other crime.
Abrams: So you think literally, today, today, he went to a grand jury in the afternoon and got an indictment on money laundering that quickly?
DeGuerin: Apparently, after all the motions spelled out there’s no conspiracy to violate the election code. It’s just real clear, there’s no such crime. So apparently in response to that, he rushed before another grand jury.
Abrams: And again, and and we’ve talked about this before, you appreciate how severe the allegation that you’re making against the district attorney is. The notion that this district attorney went to a grand jury in response to you filing a legal motion and as a result, got a grand jury to indict your client is a very serious allegation.
DeGuerin: I think that’s exactly what happened, Dan. And make no bones about it, if you look at what we filed, it’s just clear as a bell. There’s no conspiracy to violate the Texas election code. Ronnie Earle should have known that before they issued the first indictment, but this is apparently like a band-aid, some kind of patchwork to make up for the fact that they issued an indictment for something that’s not a crime first.
Ouch. Here is the conclusion:
Abrams: Dick, how do you expect to be able to defend two different charges? Are you going to attack both in the same manner, meaning to basically allege, it sounds like you’re doing now, that this is political.
DeGuerin: No, what I said to you, Dan, is the first charge just won’t hold water. It is not a crime and it’s astounding to me that a district attorney who’s been in office for 27 years to get a grand jury to return an indictment for something that’s not a crime. All he had to do was look at the books a little bit and he’d learn that. And I suppose that — earlier today, his reaction was, I’ll just go get another indictment for something else.
Abrams: All right. Well, Dick DeGuerin, thank you for coming on the program, talking about this as it’s happening. We’ll see if we can get more information on this. Let me publicly invite district attorney Ronnie Earle to come to the program. You heard Dick DeGuerin make some serious allegations. You are invited to come on the program and respond. Come on tomorrow whatever the case may be. We want to make sure we’re being fair about this.
Will Ronnie Earle go on the radio to try to defend his abuse of power? Don’t hold your breath. It is a scandal that he still holds a position of responsibility in Travis County. I know that ethics complaints, etc., have been filed against Earle for his misconduct, and an effort is underway to bar him from the practice of law. But the real solution is for the electorate to turn him out of office. The man is a disgrace to honest lawyers everywhere.