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Texas: It's one down and two to try for DeLay

The Austin American-Statesman reports: Judge Pat Priest ordered U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay and two co-defendants to be tried next year on charges that they laundered corporate money into political donations during the 2002 elections.

The judge, however, threw out the indictment accusing the defendants of conspiring to violate a Texas law prohibiting the spending of corporate money in connection with a campaign. The judge ruled that conspiracy charges did not apply to the state's election code until the Legislature changed state law in 2003 — after the alleged offenses had been committed.

The ruling means DeLay, R-Sugar Land, and his associates, John Colyandro of Austin and Jim Ellis of Washington, D.C., could stand trial sometime early next year. The defense still hopes to derail the prosecution by accusing prosecutors of misconduct in their handling of the grand juries that indicted them. -- Money laundering charge against DeLay left to stand

More details from AP: In trying to have those charges thrown out, the defense argued that the Texas money laundering law does not apply to funds in the form of a check, just coins or paper money. But the judge said that checks "are clearly funds and can be the subject of money laundering."

The defense attorneys also argued that the definition of money laundering in Texas involves the transfer of criminal proceeds. Because the money in this case was not illegal to begin with, they argued, money laundering never occurred.

But the judge rejected that argument, saying the money became suspect when "it began to be held with the prohibited intent."

He said if prosecutors can prove that DeLay and his associates obtained the corporate donations "with the express intent of converting those funds to the use of individual candidates," or that they converted money legally collected by sending it to the Republican National Committee and asking for the same amount to be sent back to Texas candidates, "then they will have established that money was laundered."

"The money would have become 'dirty money' at the point that it began to be held with the prohibited intent," Priest wrote. -- DeLay's money laundering charges upheld

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