WASHINGTON – A Texas appeals court Monday granted Rep. Tom DeLay's request to stop a prosecutor from filing subpoenas in the former majority leader's pending money laundering case.
The Third Court of Appeals panel in Austin, Texas, also said that several subpoenas issued by Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle are null and void because DeLay's trial is on hold.
In addition, any outstanding subpoenas issued before the trial was put on hold are suspended during the stay, the court said.
DeLay is awaiting trial on money laundering charges related to accusations that he funneled corporate money, largely banned for campaigns in Texas, through the Republican National Committee and a Texas political committee into the campaign coffers of several 2002 GOP legislative candidates.
DeLay denies any wrongdoing.
No trial date has been set. Court proceedings have been on hold since Dec. 19, at Earle's request. Earle asked for the stay while he appealed the dismissal of a conspiracy charge against DeLay. The stay stifled an effort by DeLay to go to trial immediately on the money laundering charges.
"Ronnie Earle was abusing his power and getting subpoenas issued by a court that had no jurisdiction," said Matt Hennessy, one of DeLay's Houston lawyers.
Hennessy said DeLay asked the court to step in after Earle issued a subpoena for his wife, Christine.
Bryan Case, director of appellate division of the Travis County district attorney's office, said Earle's office respects and will abide by the court's decision.
"We have issued these subpoenas in order to be ready for trial in a timely manner," Case said.
Earle also has issued subpoenas since the stay for documents from the former law firm employers of disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff; records from two Indian tribes that contributed to DeLay's Texans for a Republican Majority political committee and documents from the National Republican Congressional Committee about a $25,000 contribution it made to a DeLay-linked conservative advocacy group.
He also subpoenaed records from co-defendants of former California Republican Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham.
Hennessy said the subpoenas are "not worth used toilet paper."