Judge Pat Priest sentenced former U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay today to three years in prison.
In November, a jury found DeLay guilty of money laundering and conspiracy charges related to his role in transferring corporate money to political candidates through his political action committee. The former congressman will serve three years for the conspiracy charge. Priest suspended a five-year sentence for the money laundering charge, instead handing DeLay 10 years of probation. He set bond at $10,000 per count. DeLay's lawyer Dick DeGuerin said he would appeal.
At today's hearing, DeLay's defense team submitted more than 30 character letters from the Sugar Land Republican's friends and colleagues, including eight current congressmen. Former U.S. Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Illinois, testified in person that DeLay was never "power hungry," as prosecutors described him, citing a time when DeLay passed up the opportunity to become the U.S. House Speaker because of his high profile. Addressing the court, Hastert said DeLay did not admit to him any wrongdoing or remorse for the pressed charges.
DeGuerin said DeLay has lost everything because of the indictment.
"Is it political?" he asked. "I believe it is. We accept that the jury returned its verdict, but we do not accept it’s right. We will challenge it. But Tom DeLay did what he did because he believed in his ideals, in his principles, and that’s all he’s done all his life."
DeLay said he never expressed remorse because he did not believe he was guilty.
"I didn't make money out of anything. None of this was for personal gain," he said. "This criminalization of politics is very dangerous — it’s dangerous to our system, just because somebody disagrees you. It’s not enough to ruin your reputation. They have to put you in jail, bankrupt you, destroy your family."
Travis County assistant district attorney Steve Brand said the judge was in a unique position to affect how congressmen act in the future. He said that it would be a wake-up call for congressmen to know that if they did the same, they would go to prison.
"No one is above the law," Brand said in his closing argument. "And that quote is attributed to Tom DeLay, and I respectfully ask that we put him in prison, not so that he goes years from now, but that he goes today."
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