Austin: Tom DeLay, the former Republican congressional leader known as "The Hammer" for his brass-knuckles style, was sentenced to three years in prison for illegally funnelling money to Republican candidates.
A jury in November convicted DeLay, a prominent Republican, on money laundering and conspiracy charges arising from the 2002 elections in Texas. He chose to have Judge Pat Priest of San Antonio set the punishment.
Priest then stunned many in the courtroom by sentencing DeLay to three years on conspiracy charges and putting him on 10-year probation on the money-laundering charges.
Priest stressed that there was no higher or separate standard for those who write the laws; they must follow the laws, the judge said.
Texas law forbids corporations from donating to political candidates. DeLay and two associates were accused of funnelling USD 190,000 of corporate money through the Republican National Committee to hide the true source of donations to Texas candidates.
DeLay was trying to elect a Republican majority in the Texas Legislature in 2002 so the lawmakers would redraw the state's congressional districts to his liking.
An unrepentant DeLay spoke to the court before the sentence was handed down.
"I fought the fight. I ran the race. I kept the faith," he said. Prosecutors had asked for 10 years in prison, saying the judge should send a message to lawmakers everywhere.
Deputies led DeLay from the courtroom, but he was later released on USD 10,000 appellate bond.
His lawyer, Dick DeGuerin, vowed to fight the conviction on appeal.
"This will not stand," he said.
DeLay faced a possible sentence of five to 99 years in prison and a fine up to USD 10,000 on the money laundering charge. The conspiracy count carried a potential penalty of two to 20 years and a possible fine up to USD 20,000.
DeLay always contended that the financial swap was a legal transaction that both political parties had done in the past.
But Terry Nelson, the political director of the Republican National Committee in 2002, earlier testified that he had never approved a similar transaction other than with state political parties.
First Published: Tuesday, January 11, 2011, 12:17