AUSTIN, Texas – Rep. Tom DeLay (search) said Wednesday he was pleased that a new judge will preside over his conspiracy case after a motion was granted to remove the appointed judge because of his donations to Democrat causes.
"I had a very good day yesterday," DeLay said as he arrived for a GOP event at the Library of Congress.
Retired Judge C.W. "Bud" Duncan (search) granted the motion without comment. The case now goes back to Administrative Judge B.B. Schraub, who will pick the new judge.
Attorneys for DeLay had filed a motion to recuse Judge Bob Perkins (search) from presiding over the case, citing records that he had contributed to several Democratic candidates and organizations.
"The public perception of Judge Perkins' activities shows him to be on opposite sides of the political fence than Tom DeLay," said Dick DeGuerin, an attorney for DeLay, during opening statements.
Perkins, a Democrat, refused to testify in the hearing. His actions were called into question by DeLay's attorneys based on contributions to Sen. John Kerry (search), D-Mass., a former Democratic presidential candidate and to the liberal advocacy group MoveOn.org.
Prosecutor Rick Reed countered the defense argument, saying DeLay had to prove that a member of the public would have a "reasonable doubt that the judge is impartial" before Perkins would be taken off the case.
"Judges are presumed to be impartial," Reed said.
If Perkins was left as the presiding judge, it could create an impression and public perception that he could not be fair, defense attorneys said.
Richard Keeton, an attorney for DeLay, said in closing arguments that too many unanswered questions remain even without putting Perkins on the stand to explain his contributions to Democrats.
"We don't have Perkins' testimony ... all we have is numbers of donations he made," Keeton said.
Since Perkins avoided taking the stand to address the motion, "those facts ring loud," Keeton added.
Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle (search), who is leading the investigation into DeLay's campaign finance activities, responded at the end of the hearing to the defense team's comments that it was a "political case."
"This is not a political case; this is a criminal case," Earle said. "Mr. DeLay stands charged with a felony."
In closing remarks, Earle compared the case to "sectarian mobs" that oppose each other because of political affiliation.
"Danger is that the argument being made by the defendant’s counsel … will turn us into the Shiites and the Kurds and the Sunnis — and will turn us into sectarian mobs — opposing each other because of our political affiliation … there’s no basis for that in the history of our country and we don’t need to start that history today," Earle said.
DeLay was required to step down from his top GOP post after being indicted in a state fund-raising case where he allegedly helped give corporate campaign money to Republican candidates for the Texas Legislature. Texas law does not allow the direct use of corporate money for campaigning.
The hearing lasted more than four hours with DeLay sitting in the front row with his wife and aides behind defense attorneys. He often smiled and occasionally chuckled when Democrats said negative things about him in their testimony.
Once a new judge is appointed for DeLay's trial, the defense team will push for a hearing on their motion for change of venue, DeGuerin told reporters.
Judges are elected in Texas and are free to contribute to candidates and political parties. DeGuerin said no one contended Perkins did anything wrong, but "to protect the integrity" of the judicial system, he could not preside over a trial for someone to whom he was opposed politically.
"We got a fair hearing. We had a judge that listened to both sides. This will engender respect for the judiciary," DeGuerin said.
Perkins has been taken off of cases in the past. He voluntarily stepped aside in a 1994 case against Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (search), who was later acquitted of misconduct charges. Perkins had contributed $300 to Hutchison's political opponent.
Delay's lawyers cited 34 contributions Perkins has made to Democrats since 2000. Perkins has said that his contributions to MoveOn.org were made before it launched its anti-DeLay campaign. Prosecutors also argued that DeLay's attorneys counted six of the contributions twice.
FOX News' Molly Hooper and The Associated Press contributed to this report.