A judge in Texas sentenced former House Majority Leader Tom Delay to three years in prison after a November conviction for money laundering and racketeering.  Delay’s attorney vowed that “This will not stand on appeal,” but Judge Pat Priest reaffirmed the original verdict, telling Delay that he agreed with the jury.  He will also serve 10 years of probation after his release:

Judge Pat Priest sentenced Tom DeLay to three years in prison.

The three-year sentence was on the charge of conspiring to launder corporate money into political donations during the 2002 elections.

On the charge of money laundering, DeLay was sentenced to five years in prison, but that was probated for 10 years. That means he would serve 10 years’ probation. ..

Judge Priest 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.

He said there is no higher principle than that those who write the laws should follow the law.

Delay managed to avoid indictment this past summer over the Jack Abramoff scandal when the Department of Justice concluded its probe into Delay’s actions.  These charges were separate from the lobbying scandal.  The jury convicted him of laundering almost $200,000 in corporate donations through the RNC for seven Republican House candidates.  Corporations are not allowed to donate to individual campaigns, and commingling “soft” and “hard” money has been illegal since the aftermath of Watergate.

If Delay did indeed break the law — and both the jury and judge insist he did — then a prison sentence is warranted.  It could have been much worse; the maximum on these charges goes to 99 years.  Delay has famed Texas defense lawyer Dick De Guerin at his side, and perhaps we will find irregularities such as were found in the conviction and later reversal of Ted Stevens’ conviction on corruption charges.  It will be worth watching this case work its way through the appeals process.

Tags: Texas