Judge Deals DeLay Setback
Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay was dealt a blow on Saturday when the judge presiding over his criminal case in Texas cancelled a previously scheduled hearing.
The cancellation of the Dec. 27 hearing means that DeLay, R-Texas, must await appeals on dismissed conspiracy charges before still-standing money-laundering charges are addressed.
Senior Judge Pat Priest also announced he would not immediately consider separating two criminal charges against DeLay.
DeLay and his attorney, Dick DeGuerin, had asked the judge for a severance of criminal counts so that the money-laundering case could proceed more quickly, even as District Attorney Ronnie Earle appeals the dismissal of the conspiracy charges to an appeals court.
DeLay is seeking a quick resolution to his legal troubles, in the hopes that he will be allowed to return to his leadership post before his colleagues call for new leadership elections. House rules require that DeLay step aside while the legal process takes its course.
But in a letter explaining his ruling, senior Judge Pat Priest said, "I have determined to let my decision concerning a severance of counts wait until after the Third Court of Appeals of Texas, sitting at Austin, has made its ruling."
The ruling means that DeLay's legal wranglings will likely drag on longer than the congressman would like.
DeGuerin responded to the decision by telling FOX News, "We're not finished with this fight yet. Stay tuned."
A spokesman for DeLay called the appealed charges "baseless."
"We're confident that the appeals court will render a decision based on the facts and the law that agrees with this sentiment," spokesman Kevin Madden said.
DeLay was forced to step aside as majority leader in late November after he was indicted on state charges of conspiracy to violate Texas election laws. A second grand jury indicted him on charges of conspiracy to launder money and money laundering charges.
The initial charges have been dismissed, but Judge Priest has let stand the latter charges and DeLay faces possible trial on them.
Earle alleges that DeLay and two co-conspirators funneled $190,000 in corporate contributions through the Texas political committee and an arm of the National Republican Committee to seven GOP state legislative candidates.
Earle alleges DeLay and his two associates were trying to circumvent Texas' law prohibiting spending corporate money on campaigns, except for administrative expenses.
FOX News' Molly Hooper and The Associated Press contributed to this report.