Wednesday, November 17, 2010

When the Judge Argues for the Prosecution . . .

You might as well pack it in.

Today, as the prosecution was resting its case against Tom DeLay in his much anticipated money laundering trial, they got what I think might have been some unexpected help from an unanticipated corner of the room.

The judge.

Dick DeGuerin, Tom DeLay’s big dollar lawyer, in making his case for how the prosecution hadn’t made theirs, suggested that what Tom DeLay is being tried for is done all the time in Washington, and it’s OK. And it’s not only OK because it’s done all the time, it’s OK because it isn’t illegal.

Here is what he said:

“‘A person cannot become a conspirator unless he knows it is a conspiracy.’ DeGuerin said under the election laws of the time, both Democrats and Republicans made similar swaps of money all the time. ‘We're not saying it's O.K. because everybody did it. We're saying everybody did it because it was O.K.’”
Judge Pat Priest, who is a “visiting judge” in this case, a visiting judge with some actual background in the case as he made some rulings on pretrial motions as much as 5 years ago, I guess, couldn’t sit still and let that pass without comment. So he let DeGuerin have it with both barrels.

“Priest told him what made this case different was that Ellis gave then-RNC Political Director Terry Nelson a list of specific candidates who were supposed to receive non-corporate money in exchange for the deposit of corporate money with the RNC. ‘That agreement is what this lawsuit is about,’ Priest said.”

In short, what makes this case different was that there was a quid pro quo. Money changed hands and deal was made. The RNC was told what to do with the money that they got from TRMPAC as a donation to the conservative cause. When you do that, the intent of the donation – and therefore the conspiracy – is clear.

Clarity made crystal by Laylin Copelin, an Austin journalist who was one of the last to take the stand in the prosecution’s case. Copelin testified that DeLay told him in a 2005 interview that while he had learned of the money swap deal only after it was done, words that have been challenged by DeLay’s own voice on tape, even so, there was time after that alleged date to stop the RNC from issuing the checks to the seven Republican candidates per DeLay’s instructions. There was time, but he didn’t do it.

DeGuerin will say that he didn’t stop them from issuing the checks because they had done nothing wrong in the first place. Coming back full circle to Judge Priest’s observation: the difference here is that the RNC was given specific instructions about who to donate money to.

That is textbook conspiracy.

I can hear the jailer jingling his keys.

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