Grand jurors see evidence in DeLay case
Panel leader says materials convincing

By Christy Hoppe
The Dallas Morning News

AUSTIN, Texas | Grand jurors were presented a load of evidence, including testimony and phone records, that led them to think Rep. Tom DeLay should be tried on a conspiracy charge, the leader of the Travis County grand jury that indicted the congressman said Friday.

"It was not one of those sugarcoated deals that we handed to [District Attorney] Ronnie Earle," William M. Gibson said.

He added: "Mr. Earle has stacks and stacks of papers - evidence of telephone calls from Mr. DeLay and everybody."

DeLay has said Earle has no evidence to prove he tried to subvert state election laws. The Texas Republican's lawyers did not return calls seeking comments on Gibson's description of the grand jury proceedings.

The indictment stems from the activities of Texans for a Republican Majority, a political action committee created by DeLay. The group, known as TRMPAC, is accused of trying to circumvent Texas laws that make it illegal to use corporate or union money in political campaigns.

Labeling it a money laundering scheme, Earle says TRMPAC took $190,000 in corporate donations and routed it, along with the names of seven statehouse candidates, to the Republican National Committee in September 2002. The national committee then sent out $190,000 in contributions to those same seven candidates, who couldn't legally have accepted corporate money.

At the heart of the charge against DeLay is whether he knew about the transaction. Experts on Texas law say knowledge alone might be all that is needed for a conviction under state law.

DeLay, who stepped down as House majority leader when the indictment was issued Wednesday, and his lawyers maintain he knew nothing about the money exchange at the time it happened and that the indictment is a political vendetta against him.

But in the first public acknowledgments of what evidence against DeLay might exist, Gibson, a 76-year-old former sheriff's deputy and state insurance investigator said there was ample indications of the congressman's involvement.

He said DeLay provided the district attorney with a written statement that was given to the grand jury to consider but that DeLay declined to sign a sworn document or testify under oath.

"[DeLay] just gave a statement saying he did nothing. And he didn't know how that money got back down here and all that stuff," Gibson said.

"I am very much convinced that he had" knowledge of the transaction.

DeLay attorney Dick DeGuerin refuted that assertion.

"He had knowledge of it after it happened," DeGuerin said Wednesday. "It wasn't something that he did in advance, or suggested, or anything like that."