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DeLay Was Offered a Plea Bargain, Lawyer Says

Times Staff Writer

Before indicting Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) on felony conspiracy and money-laundering charges, a Texas prosecutor offered him a chance to plead guilty to a misdemeanor that would have let DeLay keep his job as House majority leader, the congressman’s lawyer said Monday.

DeLay’s lawyer, Dick DeGuerin, told Travis County Dist. Atty. Ronald D. Earle in a letter that the prosecutor had “tried to coerce a guilty plea from Tom DeLay for a misdemeanor, stating the alternative was indictment for a felony which would require his stepping down as majority leader.”

For the record:

12:00 AM, Oct. 19, 2005 For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday October 19, 2005 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 2 inches; 92 words Type of Material: Correction
Tom DeLay case -- An article in Tuesday’s Section A about Rep. Tom DeLay’s legal battle reported that the conspiracy and money-laundering charges brought against the Republican House member from Texas focused on $190,000 collected from various corporations and funneled to the 2002 campaigns of seven Republican candidates for the Texas Legislature. The article should have said that prosecutors alleged the money was used to fund the campaigns. DeLay’s attorneys have said the money was used to pay administrative expenses for Texans for a Republican Majority, a political committee founded by DeLay.

The letter also informed Earle that DeLay was filing new motions in an Austin, Texas, court seeking to dismiss the felony charges.

A spokesman for Earle said the office had no immediate comment on the letter or the motions for dismissal of the charges.

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DeLay has fought back since two grand juries indicted him last month on charges of conspiracy and money laundering in a campaign finance case. He has denied any wrongdoing, and he and his lawyers have accused Earle, a Democrat, of pursuing a political vendetta against him. Earle has denied any vendetta.

DeLay’s lawyers have filed several motions seeking to get the charges dismissed. But it was the first time his defense team said Earle had tried to persuade him to plead guilty to a lesser charge.

In the letter, DeGuerin told Earle that DeLay “turned you down flat so you had him indicted.” DeGuerin did not return a phone call seeking details on the allegation.

DeLay’s legal woes have caused turmoil within the ranks of the House Republican majority. DeLay -- known for his hard-edged political style -- has been replaced temporarily as majority leader by Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri, and some conservative Republicans have been flexing their political muscle.

For instance, they have demanded deeper budget cuts to offset the costs of rebuilding the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina. And they have pushed for an election of House leaders in January, when DeLay still might not be able to run for his old post or any other leadership job.

Rules adopted by GOP House members disqualify a lawmaker under indictment from holding a leadership position.

DeLay has vowed to regain his former job and has said he wants a speedy resolution of the charges against him.

In the motions filed Monday, DeGuerin sought to dismiss the conspiracy and money-laundering charges on a number of technical grounds.

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The charges against DeLay and two of his close associates came after an investigation into allegations that they had illegally funneled corporate money into the political accounts of Republican candidates for the Texas Legislature in an effort to influence the outcome of the 2002 elections.

A grand jury initially indicted DeLay on a charge of conspiracy, a fourth-degree felony punishable by a two-year state prison term.

A few days later, a second grand jury indicted DeLay on the far more serious charges of conspiracy to commit money laundering, a second-degree felony, and money laundering, a first-degree felony. Together the charges could result in a life sentence.


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