AUSTIN, Texas (AP)
Former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay - once one of the most powerful and feared Republicans in Congress - was convicted Wednesday on charges he illegally funneled corporate money to Texas candidates in 2002.
Jurors deliberated for 19 hours before returning guilty verdicts against DeLay on charges of money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering. He faces up to life in prison on the money laundering charge.
After the verdicts were read, DeLay hugged his daughter, Danielle, and his wife, Christine. His lead attorney, Dick DeGuerin, said they planned to appeal the verdict.
"This is an abuse of power. It's a miscarriage of justice, and I still maintain that I am innocent. The criminalization of politics undermines our very system and I'm very disappointed in the outcome," DeLay told reporters outside the courtroom. He remains free on bond, and his sentencing was tentatively set to begin on Dec. 20.
Prosecutors said DeLay, who once held the No. 2 job in the House of Representatives and whose heavy-handed style earned him the nickname "the Hammer," used his political action committee to illegally channel $190,000 in corporate donations into 2002 Texas legislative races through a money swap.
DeLay and his attorneys maintained the former Houston-area congressman did nothing wrong as no corporate funds went to Texas candidates and the money swap was legal.
The verdict came after a three-week trial in which prosecutors presented more than 30 witnesses and volumes of e-mails and other documents. DeLay's attorneys presented five witnesses.
"This case is a message from the citizens of the state of Texas that the public officials they elect to represent them must do so honestly and ethically, and if not, they'll be held accountable," Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg said after the verdict.
Prosecutors said DeLay conspired with two associates, John Colyandro and Jim Ellis, to use his Texas-based PAC to send $190,000 in corporate money to an arm of the Washington-based Republican National Committee, or RNC. The RNC then sent the same amount to seven Texas House candidates. Under Texas law, corporate money can't go directly to political campaigns.