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Within hours after being sworn in on Monday, a Travis County grand jury reindicted U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, and two political associates on a charge that they conspired to violate the Texas Election Code. The grand jury also added money-laundering charges. “The charges stem from a transaction in which $190,000 in corporate money was sent from Austin to Washington, [D.C.], and then contributed to candidates for the Texas Legislature,” the Travis County district attorney’s office said in a news release announcing the new indictments. But Dick DeGuerin, lead counsel for DeLay, says District Attorney Ronnie Earle sought the new charges because the indictment that another grand jury returned on Sept. 28 was for a crime that did not exist at the time Earle alleges it occurred. DeLay asserts in a motion to quash and dismiss the original indictment that the Texas Conspiracy Statute, �15.02 of the Penal Code, does not apply to violations of the Election Code in 2002. The Sept. 28 indictment alleges that DeLay, John Colyandro and James Ellis conspired to violate the Election Code in 2002 when they agreed to send a $190,000 check, funded in part with corporate contributions to the Texans for a Republican Majority Political Action Committee (TRMPAC), to the Republican National State Elections Committee (RNSEC), which sent contributions to seven GOP candidates for the Texas House. Colyandro formerly was the executive director of the now defunct TRMPAC, and Ellis is DeLay’s chief fund-raiser in Washington, D.C. According to DeLay’s motion, filed on Oct. 3 in the 147th District Court, �15.02 is contained in Title 4 of the Penal Code, which the Legislature amended in 2003 to make it applicable to the Election Code. The district court has not acted on the motion. DeGuerin, who also told Earle in an Oct. 3 letter that the conspiracy statute did not apply to violations of the Election Code in 2002, says the DA’s office made a mistake. “It’s first-year law student stuff,” contends DeGuerin, a partner in Houston’s DeGuerin, Dickson & Hennessy. Joseph A. Turner, Colyandro’s attorney, calls the Sept. 28 indictment “a colossal blunder.” DeGuerin says he tried to “shame” Earle into doing the right thing on the first indictment. “His response was to rush in front of a grand jury that had just been sworn in at noon [on Oct. 3],” DeGuerin says. “This new indictment is a cover-up of the prosecutors’ ineptness in the first indictment,” contends Turner, of the Law Offices of Joseph A. Turner in Austin. Turner says he is concerned about the speed with which the DA’s office obtained the new indictment. The new grand jury could not have heard all the evidence in the case, especially evidence favorable to the defendants, he says. Ellis’ attorney, Jonathan D. “J.D.” Pauerstein, a partner in San Antonio’s Loeffler Tuggey Pauerstein Rosenthal, did not return a telephone call seeking comment. Turner and Pauerstein said in earlier interviews that their clients will plead not guilty to the charges. Neither Earle nor Gregg Cox, an assistant district attorney who heads the Public Integrity Unit in Earle’s office, immediately returned phone calls seeking comment about the new indictment. The DA’s office says in the news releases: “This indictment consolidates previous charges against John Colyandro and Jim Ellis involving the $190,000 transaction and adds Congressman DeLay as a party defendant to money laundering.” With regard to the money-laundering charge, the new indictment alleges that on or about Oct. 4, 2002, DeLay, Colyandro and Ellis knowingly transferred $190,000 from TRMPAC to the Republican National Committee and the RNSEC with instructions that contributions go to seven Texas House candidates. Money laundering is a first-degree felony punishable by five years of probation up to life in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Conspiracy to commit money laundering is a second-degree felony punishable by two years probation up to 20 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. The grand jury also reindicted DeLay, Colyandro and Ellis on a charge of conspiracy to violate the Election Code. According to the earlier indictment, DeLay had waived the statute of limitations on the criminal conspiracy charge. The limitations ran out on Sept. 13. DeGuerin asked Earle in a separate letter on Oct. 3 to inform the new grand jury that DeLay filed a notice to withdraw the waiver. However, the Oct. 3 indictment includes a statement that DeLay had waived the limitations statute. The new indictment also changes the dates on which the alleged offenses occurred. According to the Sept. 28 indictment, the alleged conspiracy occurred on or about Sept. 13, 2002. The Oct. 3 indictment alleges that conspiracy occurred between Sept. 6, 2002, and Oct. 4, 2002.

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