Page 10


1 WELL, I THINK 11,1 OIL BUSINESS 11111 CAN COUNT ON A FEW MORE DECADES BEFORE WE SEE ANY PROBLEMS FROM GLOBAL WARMING… try-friendly state agency charged with mediating disputes between homeowners and builders. DEGUERIN’S DOMINANCE Score one for Dick DeGuerin. That was the inescapable conclusion following the latest pre-trial hearing in the criminal case of State of Texas vs. Tom DeLay. At the 3rd Court of Appeals in Austin on March 22, DeGuerin, DeLay’s defense attorney, so outmatched the Travis County prosecutors that by the end of the hearing, Assistant District Attorney Rick Reedwho argued before the court on behalf of Travis County DA Ronnie Earle’s officewas crying uncle. “I would urge the court to read the briefs carefully and not rely solely on what we’ve presented in oral arguments,” Reed told the three-judge panel. “There are a lot of points I would have liked to have made had I had more time.” In fairness, Reed had the much tougher case to make. The issue before the court was whether prosecutors could charge DeLay, the Sugar Land Republican and former majority leader of the U.S. House, with conspiracy to violate Texas election law. Last fall, the Travis County grand jury indicted DeLay on first-degree felony charges of laundering illegal corporate money during Texas’ 2002 electionpart of his ultimately successful effort to make speaker and redraw Texas’ congressional districts. DeLay was also indicted for conspiracy to launder money and to violate Texas’ ban on corporate money in campaigns. Earlier this year, DeGuerin filed a pre-trial motion to dismiss the conspiracy charges. He argued that the state’s criminal conspiracy statute, used to indict DeLay, didn’t cover the election code until 2003after DeLay’s alleged offenses. Trial judge Pat Priest of San Antonio agreed and threw out the conspiracy charges. \(The money Prosecutors appealed Priest’s decision to the 3rd Court of Appeals. To bolster his case, DeGuerin unearthed precedent that the state conspiracy statute should be narrowly interpreted. He presented two related 1970s cases in which the Court of Criminal Appeals \(the high the conspiracy statute doesn’t apply to Texas’ Controlled Substances Act. Similarly, DeGuerin argued in briefs that since the conspiracy statute’s language in 2002 didn’t specifically mention the elections code, it shouldn’t cover election law. In his argument to the court, Reed bristled at DeGuerin’s reasoning. If the conspiracy statute were constructed so narrowly, prosecutors couldn’t have used it in all sorts of crimesconspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to laun der money, conspiracy to you-name-it. Justice Alan Waldrop conceded that was true, but beside the point. The appeals court is obligated to follow precedents from the Court of Criminal Appeals, Waldrop told Reed. The rulings may be flawed or illogical, but only the Court of Criminal Appeals can overturn them. “We’re looking at Court of Criminal Appeals decisions that would appear to apply in this situation,” said Waldrop. “Why don’t they [apply]?” Reed labored to explain why the election law is different from the Controlled Substances Act in a rambling reply about the laws’ different histories. It wasn’t exactly convincing. Then it was DeGuerin’s turn at the podium. “I don’t mean to make a pun,” he said, “but justice delayed is justice denied in this case.” The remark seemed aimed more at the reporters present than at the judges. The appeals court will issue its ruling in the coming weeks. DeLay’s trial likely won’t begin for at least several months. NOT EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND State Rep. Richard Raymond \(D-Larecould be basking in his re-election victory and resting up for the upcoming special session. Unfortunately for him, his political ambitions led him away from frozen daiquiris and toward a heated primary runoff. When Raymond decided last fall to challenge Congressman Henry Cuellar office up for grabs. That move created opportunities for three hopefuls to fill the seat in Austin. One of Raymond’s former aides, Sergio Mora, seized the opportunity to run. So did former Webb County Judge Mercurio Martinez. Firefighter Jose “Rudy” Ochoa also registered as a candidate. A few months after announcing his candidacy for Congress, Raymond changed his mind and backed out of the race. He didn’t return calls to talk about it. But polls showed him finishing third behind Cuellar and former U.S. Rep. Ciro Rodriguez. Also, Raymond wasn’t receiving money from nation -continued on page 31 APRIL 7, 2006 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 5