A judge in Austin, Texas on Monday sentenced former Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay to three years in prison for his role in orchestrating a scheme to illegally funnel nearly $200,000 in corporate cash to state political candidates in 2002.
The Houston Chronicle reported that DeLay was taken into custody, but he will be released on $10,000 bail pending appeal. DeLay told State Senior Judge Pat Priest prior to his sentencing that he did not “feel remorseful for something I don’t think I did.”
“I always intended to follow the law,” DeLay said. “I’m not stupid. Everything I did I had accountants and lawyers telling me what to do and how to follow the letter of the law, even the spirit of the law.”
Priest, however, rejected DeLay’s defense.
“Before there were Republicans and Democrats, there was America, and what America is about is the rule of law,” Priest said before pronouncing the sentence.
Responding to the sentence outside of the Travis County courthouse, DeLay’s attorney, Dick DeGeurin, said, “If I told you what I thought, I would get sued. This will not stand.”
Prosecutor Steve Brandt urged Priest to immediately order DeLay to begin serving his prison sentence, saying the man who was known as “The Hammer” has not shown any “remorse whatsover” and “according to him, does nothing wrong.”
“If he gets probation,” Brandt said, “and those people who read the newspaper tomorrow … will say, ‘I told you. He wears a tie, he gets probation’…I’m going to use a quote from Alexander Hamilton, ‘No one is above the law.'”
According to The Associated Press, “Priest sentenced [DeLay] to the three-year term on the conspiracy charge” and “also sentenced him to five years in prison on the money laundering charge but allowed DeLay to accept 10 years of probation instead of more prison time.”
Priest issued his ruling “after a brief sentencing hearing on Monday in which former US House Speaker Dennis Hastert testified on DeLay’s behalf,” the AP reported.
DeLay was convicted last November by a jury of six men and six women of money laundering and conspiracy.
The case dates back to mid-September 2002, when DeLay’s state political action committee, Texans for a Republican Majority, turned over a check for $190,000 to the Republican National Committee. The funds had been donated to DeLay’s PAC earlier that year by corporate lobbyists who, according to witnesses in DeLay’s criminal trial, were hoping to influence the outcome of elections involving Republican candidates in certain districts campaigning for the Texas Legislature.
When those lawmakers were elected, they pushed through a redistricting plan sponsored by DeLay that allowed them to redraw the Texas district map for Washington, DC that favored Republican, which the prosecution maintained was the centerpiece of DeLay’s scheme.
DeLay was indicted in 2005 and was forced to step down as House Majority Leader. The charges against DeLay originally centered on campaign finance law violations. But prosecutors revised those charges because under the law on the books at the time accusing someone for conspiring to break campaign finance laws was impossibe.
During DeLay’s three-week criminal trial last year, prosecutors called more than 30 witnesses in an attempt to prove to the jury that DeLay conspired with two of his colleagues to sidestep a Texas law that prohibits corporate donations being made to political campaigns either directly or indirectly.
Following his conviction, DeLay derided the jury’s verdict and said the case was politically motivated, an “abuse of power” and a “miscarriage of justice.”
“I still maintain that I am innocent,” DeLay said. “The criminalization of politics undermines our system.”
But Gary Cobb, the lead prosecutor in the case, refuted DeLay’s allegations and said the jury rendered its verdict after being presented with the facts. Cobb said DeLay is a “corrupt politician who was caught violating the laws” of Texas.
Correction: This report originally identified Pat Priest as a federal court judge. He is a Texas District Judge. We apologize for the error.