Thursday, September 29, 2005

Let the frenzy begin

Democrats and the MSM are licking their chops over the Tom DeLay indictment as no less that three major newspapers have published articles today about the imminent fall of a "scandal-plagued" GOP. Here is a small sampling from today's New York Times:

At the same time, the White House is grappling with a criminal investigation into whether anyone leaked the name of a C.I.A. operative, an inquiry that has brought both Karl Rove, Mr. Bush's top political adviser, and I. Lewis Libby, chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, before a grand jury.

And the administration is struggling to steady itself after the slow response to Hurricane Katrina and defend itself against sweeping accusations of incompetence and cronyism in domestic security.

Joe Gaylord, a longtime Republican consultant and an adviser to Newt Gingrich when he was House speaker, said, "When you couple Iraq, Katrina, DeLay in the House, Frist in the Senate," and other ethical flaps, "it looks like 10 years is a long time for a party to be in power."

Yes you read it right. Iraq and Katrina are now ethical flaps! This has given rise to what Nancy Pelosi calls the "culture of corruption" coming from the Republican party (the media version is "stench of corruption").

Hmmmm... all this talk about corrupt administrations has suddenly brought some names from the past to mind... Ron Brown.... Harold Ickes... Craig Livingstone... Billy Dale... Catherine Cornelius... Nathan Landow... Jim McDougal... Susan McDougal... Ron Espy... Monica Lewinsky... Webb Hubble... Johnny Chung... John Huang... Kathleen Willey... David Watkins... Zoe Baird... Anthony Marceca... Jorge Cabrera... Jaunita Broaddrick... Henry Cisneros... Denise Rich... And going by our new definitions let's add Iraq (yes Bubba went in there too) and any hurricane that happened to hit America in the 90's.

Yes, the left is depending on short memories of Americans to help usher in a new administration of "change". Somehow I doubt the voters will be buying it.

But back to the Tom DeLay front... The Houston Chronicle has talked to several legal experts and the general consensus seems to be that Travis County D.A. Ronnie Earle has overreached his bounds. Most are agreeing that unless Earle has gotten someone to "flip", his case against DeLay will crumble:

Most legal experts looking at the conspiracy indictment of U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay said Wednesday that either an insider has turned against DeLay or the prosecutor may have gone too far.

"I can't imagine indicting a majority leader of the U.S. House of Representatives without having a smoking gun, and that means someone who flipped on DeLay," said Buck Wood, an Austin lawyer who filed a related civil lawsuit on behalf of Democratic congressional candidates. "He's got to have corroborating evidence, too, bills and things proving where DeLay was at key times."

Several lawyers and law professors said Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle could have talked the grand jury into a questionable indictment if he hasn't secured key witnesses who were "in the room" with DeLay. Otherwise, this conspiracy case could be too hard to prove with just circumstantial evidence, they said.

DeLay was indicted, along with two political associates, by an Austin state grand jury Wednesday. The three were charged with conspiracy to violate a Texas election law that bars giving corporate money to candidates.

The brief indictment accuses DeLay's two co-defendants with specific acts such as collecting corporate contributions through a Texas political action committee. It says they sent a $190,000 check to a branch of the Republican National Committee with a list of Texas congressional candidates who were to get funding.

But all the indictment says DeLay did was "enter into an agreement" with one or both men to knowingly violate the election code. Earle must prove to a jury that DeLay agreed to a felony when he denies it.

'Someone in the meetings'
Houston lawyer David Berg said the case against DeLay could possibly be proved with a lot of circumstantial evidence such as cryptic e-mail, hotel and travel bills placing him at meetings, and his "fingerprints" somehow on the transactions.

"But what a prosecutor wants is someone in the meetings. I think someone has to have rolled over on DeLay," Berg said.

He said prosecutor Earle has too much at stake to move forward without strong evidence. Earle has to be careful because he has taken heat over his public anti-DeLay comments and is marked by his failure to convict U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, some years ago, Berg said.

Attorneys familiar with the case said that key anti-DeLay cooperators, if they exist, could be co-defendants, insider Republicans or even witnesses from the contributing corporations.

Criminal conspiracy charges are common in federal court where they are used against drug gangs, organized-crime types and white-collar criminals.

The Texas conspiracy law is used infrequently. State courts are filled with murder, robbery, burglary and other cases that often don't lend themselves to conspiracy charges.

The Texas law invoked against DeLay is loosely worded and casts a wide net. It merely requires that a conspirator must intentionally agree with at least one person that they or someone else in the conspiracy will commit an act to further a felony.

University of Houston professor David Crump said the government is nevertheless going to have to show the jury, no matter how many Travis County Democrats are sitting on it, that DeLay did something to promote a campaign-fund transfer that was against the law.

"Yes, it's possible to have a conspiracy in which one conspirator didn't do anything but merely agreed. But I've never seen it happen in reality. The agreement can't be that passive or tacit," Crump said.

Moonshine cases
Crump said a "granddaddy of conspiracy cases" comes from moonshine charges. "Courts said delivering sugar, knowing it would be used for moonshine, just wasn't enough," Crump said. "They required an agreement with the intent to promote (moonshine production)."

Crump said he doesn't know all the DeLay case background but doesn't "necessarily infer that there has to be a turncoat insider." His reading of the indictment is that the case against DeLay looks "dubious and vague."

Dick DeGuerin, an attorney for DeLay who beat Earle in the Hutchison case, said Wednesday that the prosecutor doesn't have just one cooperating witness — he has many. "I think everybody has cooperated with the government, and the evidence showed Tom DeLay did nothing wrong," he said.

He said none of the three accused men committed a crime since the funds were never improperly used.

The indictment does not follow the corporate-sponsored $190,000 into any specific account from which it was then used to improperly pay candidates. DeGuerin says it wasn't alleged in the indictment because it didn't happen. Any money sent to the candidates came properly from a separate individual donor account.

"Still, no case is easy when somebody's career is at stake. It won't be a walk in the park," DeGuerin said.

Explosive case in store
Mike Ramsey, a Houston criminal defense lawyer, said the case will be easy for the prosecutors only if they have a turncoat witness with a lot of credibility.

He said no matter what the evidence, the case promises to be explosive.

"At any rate, this is a wild card indictment," Ramsey said. "There's a wild card prosecutor and a wild card defendant."

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