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Originally published October 1, 2005 at 12:00 AM | Page modified October 1, 2005 at 12:23 AM

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Grand jury foreman cites "stacks" of evidence against DeLay

Grand jurors were presented a load of evidence, including testimony and phone records, that led them to believe Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, should...

The Dallas Morning News

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

"It was not one of those sugar-coated deals that we handed to [District Attorney] Ronnie Earle," William 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 that he tried to subvert state election laws. His 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 claims TRMPAC took $190,000 in corporate donations and routed it — along with the names of seven statehouse candidates — to the Republican National Committee (RNC) in September 2002. The RNC then sent $190,000 in contributions to those same seven candidates, who couldn't legally have accepted corporate money.

At the heart of the conspiracy charge against DeLay is whether he knew about the transaction. Experts on Texas law say that 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 the indictment is a political vendetta against him.

But in the first public acknowledgments of what evidence against DeLay might exist, Gibson, 76, a former sheriff's deputy and state insurance investigator, said there were 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. "We believe different from other paperwork we got."

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

Earlier, DeLay attorney Dick DeGuerin disagreed his client knew about the transaction.

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

DeLay's legal team also questions the money-laundering charge, asserting that corporate money was legally accepted by the RNC and a different $190,000 — from a separate, noncorporate account — was distributed to state representative candidates.

Gibson, summing up the grand-jury decision, said yesterday, "As far as we're concerned, they presented us enough evidence and witnesses that we felt we were on the right track. I would not have put my name on that grand-jury indictment unless I felt we had ample probable cause."

While DeLay lieutenants John Colyandro and Jim Ellis were indicted for the alleged money-laundering maneuver, DeLay was charged only with conspiracy.

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