AUSTIN, Texas — During a 22-year career in the U.S. House, Tom DeLay helped build up the Republican Party's power - and, by extension, his own - through a combination of shrewd strategy and hardball tactics that earned him the nickname "The Hammer" and elevated him to the chamber's second-highest post.
But one such effort to shore up GOP clout also proved to be his undoing and could cost the former House majority leader his freedom.
DeLay was defiant Wednesday after a jury convicted him in what prosecutors alleged was a scheme to send more Republicans to Congress by funneling illegal corporate money to Texas legislative candidates in 2002.
Outside the courtroom, he complained about an "abuse of power" and "miscarriage of justice" from the jury in Austin, the most Democratic city in one of the most Republican states.
"I still maintain that I am innocent. The criminalization of politics undermines our very system and I'm very disappointed in the outcome," said DeLay, who remains free on bond pending the punishment phase of the trial, tentatively set to begin on Dec. 20.
Jurors deliberated for 19 hours before returning guilty verdicts against DeLay on charges of money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering. He faces five years to life in prison on the money laundering charge and two to 20 years on the conspiracy charge. He also would be eligible for probation.
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