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Texas Appeals Court Sets Date to Consider Reinstating DeLay Conspiracy Charge

Texas' highest criminal appeals court will hear arguments Jan. 24 on whether it should reinstate a dropped conspiracy charge against former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

A Travis County grand jury indicted DeLay and two political consultants last year on felony money laundering and conspiracy charges stemming 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.

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

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

There is no deadline for the Court of Criminal Appeals to act after hearing the oral arguments, Priest said in a statement.

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.

DeLay's attorney 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 remaining conspiracy charge accuses DeLay of conspiring to launder money.