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Texas Court to Consider Reinstating Conspiracy Charge Against DeLay

Texas' highest criminal appeals court has agreed to consider reinstating a dropped conspiracy charge against former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, likely delaying his trial on felony money laundering and conspiracy counts until next year.

A Travis County grand jury indicted DeLay and two political consultants last year on the charges that stemmed from Republican fundraising in the 2002 legislative races. DeLay stepped down as majority leader after the charges were filed and announced his resignation from Congress a few months later.

A state district judge threw out one of two conspiracy charges and let stand the money laundering charge. Prosecutors asked the appeals court to reinstate the dropped conspiracy charge, a move that has postponed trial proceedings on the remaining charges.

"It's just another bump in the road," said DeLay's attorney, Dick DeGuerin. "I thought they would just refuse to get involved but at the same time, I'm not really shocked by it."

DeLay and other Texas Republicans have accused prosecutor Ronnie Earle, a Democrat, of conducting a political vendetta.

Earle did not immediately return a phone call from The Associated Press.

State District Judge Pat Priest said he would continue with the trial when the appeals process has been concluded.

Both sides will be given time to file their arguments with the Court of Criminal Appeals, which will then set a date for oral arguments. A ruling is not likely to come before next year, said Ed Marty, general counsel to the court.

Prosecutors accuse the three defendants of funneling $190,000 in illegal corporate money to the Republican National Committee, which then donated the same amount to Texas candidates. Under Texas law, corporate money can't be directly used for political campaigns.

DeLay and the consultants, Jim Ellis and John Colyandro, say the transaction was legal.

DeGuerin argues that the dropped charge accuses DeLay of conspiring to violate the election code as it stood in 2003, and that the transaction was legal at the time it was made. The second, remaining conspiracy charge accuses DeLay of conspiring to launder money.