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Tom DeLay Sentenced to Three Years in Prison
A Pardon for DeLay?
The Lone Star Project reported in December that a DeLay pardon was unlikely anytime soon. First, Governor Perry can't personally pardon DeLay; he can only make recommendations to the Pardon Board. Second, the Pardon Board can't act until the appeals process has run its course. Read more here
Tom DeLay was sentenced to three years in prison for his role in an illegal scheme to launder almost $200,000 in corporate campaign donations. A Texas Judge sentenced DeLay to three years in prison on charges of conspiracy to launder money. He was sentenced to an additional five years in prison on the charge of illegally laundering money, but that sentenced was reduced to ten years on probation. (Source: Austin American-Statesman, January 10, 2011)
Judge Pat Priest, who had been named to the case by Republican Supreme Court Justice Wallace Jefferson, said "he agreed with the jury’s guilty verdict, returned in November, and would have instructed a different verdict if he did not believe DeLay conspired to break the law," according to the Austin American-Statesman. DeLay was convicted by a jury in November after a trial that lasted nearly a month. DeLay chose to have Priest conduct the sentencing instead of allowing the jury to hand down a sentence. (Source: Austin American-Statesman, January 7, 2011)
DeLay was immediately taken into custody. According to the Statesman, "he is expected to be released as soon as he posted an appeals bond." DeLay continued to maintain his innocence, despite the fact that his inability to take responsibility for his actions likely contributed to his prison sentence. During today's sentencing, prosecutors played a tape of DeLay saying that upon appeal, “Maybe we can get it before people who understand the law.” They also asked DeLay's only character witness, former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, "if one of DeLay's religious and conservative values was taking acceptance for doing wrong." Hastert said he had not heard DeLay take responsibility for his actions. (Source: Associated Press, January 10, 2011)
Prison for DeLay Does Not Repair Damage to Texas
After today’s sentencing, it is likely that many DeLay allies will continue to contend that he was prosecuted only because he was a successful partisan Republican. At the same time, too many Tom DeLay opponents will believe that the book closes with Tom DeLay on his way to prison.
Tom DeLay is not going to jail because of his political beliefs or his ideological views. He is going to jail for breaking the laws of the State of Texas. He committed felony money laundering and was handed down a sentence commensurate with his crime.
Unfortunately, the cell door slamming shut on DeLay won't end his brand of cut-throat, destroy-the-enemy-at-all-costs politics. The vote earlier today by the House Republican Caucus signaling that only a Speaker approved by a majority of Republicans will be allowed is the fruit of Tom DeLay’s poisonous tree. Legislative efforts by Texas Republicans to protect their majority by suppressing the votes of minority Texans are straight from DeLay’s handbook. The cynical plans to eliminate a $27 billion Republican budget deficit by further weakening the education and healthcare structure critical to Texas families is more classic Tom DeLay.
So, while acknowledging that justice is served by Tom DeLay's prison sentence, we must also acknowledge that Texas Republicans learned his lessons well and Texas will suffer while his disciples continue to serve.