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Judge: DeLay Associate to Face Charges

A state district judge on Tuesday refused to dismiss charges of money laundering and accepting illegal political contributions against an associate of U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (search).

Lawyers for John Colyandro (search), who worked for DeLay's fundraising committee Texans for a Republican Majority, had claimed the indictment against him was based on an unconstitutionally vague law.

Travis County Judge Bob Perkins (search) rejected that claim, although the money laundering issue remains technically alive. Prosecutors brought a second indictment on that charge last week. Perkins ruled on the first indictment and set another hearing for July 27.

Although the ruling moves Colyandro a step closer to trial, his attorney, Joe Turner, said he would immediately begin preparing an appeal, which could delay any trial until 2006.

Perkins did not rule on a motion to dismiss money laundering indictment against another DeLay associate, Jim Ellis, scheduling an Aug. 9 hearing for him.

Like Colyandro, prosecutors issued a new indictment against Ellis last week that tweaked the language of the money laundering charge after defense lawyers argued the original referred to a check instead of cash.

While defense lawyers said the law refers only to cash transactions, Perkins said it was clear to him it would include checks as well.

"In my opinion, I think funds would include checks," Perkins said from the bench.

The charges stem from the 2002 Texas legislative elections. The money laundering charges are based on $190,000 in corporate money that was sent to the Republican National State Elections Committee. That committee then gave the same amount of money in donations to seven Texas House candidates.

DeLay, a Republican from Sugar Land, has not been charged with criminal wrongdoing.