Politics & Government

Ex-House Leader DeLay heads to court on 2005 laundering charges

AUSTIN — After protracted delays, a 5-year-old criminal case against former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay will surge back into public view today, when he and two co-defendants appear in a pretrial hearing related to charges that they laundered corporate campaign contributions in the 2002 elections.

The hearing on a series of pretrial motions may last three days and will set the stage for a trial on charges leveled in 2005, when the former Texas congressman was at the height of his political powers.

Since then, DeLay has relinquished his Houston-area congressional seat and his leadership post as the second-highest ranking member of the House, but he has continued to keep a visible profile as a voice for conservative causes. He also made an unlikely appearance on prime-time television as a short-lived contestant on ABC's Dancing With the Stars.

The Justice Department recently announced that it has ended its six-year inquiry into allegations of dealings between DeLay and lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who was convicted in a corruption investigation that rocked Washington. DeLay won't be indicted in that investigation, the department's public integrity sector determined.

DeLay will appear in 331st District Court with co-defendants John Colyandro of Austin and Jim Ellis of Washington. The state's case against DeLay and his two former aides has droned through Texas courts since it began unfolding, with prosecutors and defense lawyers slugging it out in appeals and counterappeals.

The case took a crucial turn in April when the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals effectively cleared the way for a trial. DeLay has repeatedly insisted that he will be vindicated if the case comes to trial.

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