The Brief: Top Texas News for Aug. 26, 2010

Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land, speaks with media at the 331st District Court of Travis County during the pretrial hearings on money laundering charges against the former congressman.
Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land, speaks with media at the 331st District Court of Travis County during the pretrial hearings on money laundering charges against the former congressman.

THE BIG CONVERSATION:

Someone tell Tom DeLay to ready his tie-dye and burnt orange.

It might help him fit in a bit better in deep-blue Austin, where, a judge declared Wednesday, the former U.S. House majority leader will stand trial.

In the second day of pretrial hearings for a case targeting DeLay for money laundering, Senior Judge Pat Priest denied DeLay's request to have his trial moved from liberal Travis County back to his home county of Fort Bend, saying precautions would be taken to ensure that jurors act fairly. Priest, who said DeLay didn't face the type of dangerous environment that warrants a change of venue, set a tentative trial date for Oct. 26. 

"I hope I can get a fair trial here," DeLay said. "We'll find out."

 

On Wednesday, DeLay's lawyer, Dick DeGuerin, called pollsters and lawyers to testify that his client faced a hostile environment. One pollster said 59 percent of Travis County voters had a negative opinion of DeLay and that 40 percent already believed he was guilty of money laundering. Only only 2 percent hold a strongly positive view of him, the pollster added — news to which DeLay responded with a "bemused smile," as Tribune's Morgan Smith noted Wednesday.

DeGuerin also presented a collection of Austin American-Statesman articles, saying the newspaper's "unrelenting" coverage of DeLay had helped sully his reputation in Austin.

But prosectuors said this was not the type of sensationalized case that would normally call for a change of venue. "This is not a blood and guts case," prosecutor Beverly Mathews said.

Priest agreed, citing a case from his hometown of San Antonio during the 1970s that involved a violent crime. "This is not that kind of case," he said.

DeLay faces five years to life in prison if convicted.

CULLED:

  • President Barack Obama will be in El Paso next week to meet with Fort Bliss soldiers before delivering a televised speech the same night on Tuesday's deadline to withdraw troops from Iraq. This will mark the president's first trip to El Paso but his second visit to Texas this month.
  • After advocacy groups alleged this week that problems with abuse and unsafe conditions remain in Texas Youth Commission facilities, the lawmakers who led efforts to overhaul the commission four years ago — following similar reports of abuse and mistreatment — are calling for hearings on the matter.
  • The House Committee on Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence will meet today to review Texas campaign finance law in light of a 2009 Supreme Court case, Caperton v. Massey, that has prompted states to examine judges presiding over trials affecting contributors to their political campaigns. 

"At least he can take comfort in that he beat George Bush." — Senior Judge Pat Priest, presiding over the Tom DeLay case, on poll numbers that put DeLay's unfavorability ratings in Travis County at 59 percent

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Mentally Challenged Teen Faces 100 Years in Prison, The Texas Tribune

 

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