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Testimony to resume in DeLay's laundering trial

Testimony to resume in DeLay's laundering trial

November 2nd, 2010 by By JUAN A. LOZANO, Associated Press in News

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, accused of illegally funneling corporate money into Texas legislative races eight years ago, is expected to spend this Election Day in court.

Testimony was to resume Tuesday in DeLay's money laundering trial, George Ceverha, the ex-treasurer of DeLay's Texas-based political action committee, was expected to return to the stand with defense attorneys questioning him.

Ceverha was one of the witnesses jurors heard from Monday after opening statements. He testified about the internal workings of DeLay's PAC.

DeLay, who has denied any wrongdoing, is charged with money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering. If convicted, he could face up to life in prison.

Prosecutors allege DeLay and two associates - Jim Ellis and John Colyandro - illegally channeled $190,000 in corporate money, which had been collected by a group DeLay started, through the Washington-based Republican National Committee. Under Texas law, corporate money cannot be directly used for political campaigns.

The money helped Republicans in 2002 take control of the Texas House. That majority allowed Republicans to push through a congressional redistricting plan engineered by DeLay that sent more Texas Republicans to Congress in 2004 and strengthened DeLay's political stature, prosecutors said.

Two individuals who work as political watchdogs testified Monday they filed complaints with the Travis County District Attorney's Office seeking an investigation into DeLay's PAC for allegedly using corporate money for political candidates.

DeLay's attorneys say Texas candidates got no corporate money and the work DeLay did to elect candidates was only good politics.

DeLay has been pressing for a trial since he was indicted five years ago, but the case was slowed by appeals of pretrial rulings.

His attorneys have said the charges are politically motivated by former Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle, who brought the original case but has since retired. Earle is a Democrat. Prosecutors deny the charges are politically motivated.

His defense team also worried about the trial being held in Austin - the most Democratic city in one of the most Republican states - and its timing, with testimony beginning a day before Tuesday's contentious midterm elections.

DeLay was once one of the most polarizing but powerful Republicans in Congress, earning the nickname "the Hammer" for his heavy-handed style.

But the criminal charges in Texas, as well as a separate federal investigation of his ties to disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, ended his 22-year political career representing suburban Houston. The Justice Department has since ended its federal investigation into DeLay's ties to Abramoff without filing any charges against DeLay.

Ellis and Colyandro, who face lesser charges, will be tried later. A previous charge alleging they and DeLay had engaged in a conspiracy to violate campaign finance laws was dismissed.

DeLay has been mostly out of public view since resigning from Congress, except for an appearance on ABC's hit television show "Dancing With the Stars." He now runs a consulting firm based in the Houston suburb of Sugar Land.