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January 12, 2011

"DeLay flunked attitude test?: Harsh penalty could be linked to lack of remorse, some experts say"

The title of this post is the headline of this intriguing article in today's Houston Chronicle, which follows up on the notable Texas prison sentence given to former House leader Tom DeLay.  Here are excerpts:

The three-year prison sentence meted out to former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay in a political money laundering case is far harsher than sentences recommended for two other public offenders recently convicted in Central Texas.

There is, however, a high likelihood that DeLay's case will be overturned on appeal before he ever sees the inside of a prison cell, according to several criminal defense lawyers. DeLay's sentence may reflect more on his remorseless attitude before visiting District Judge Pat Priest than on the seriousness of the crime, they said.  "Maybe DeLay flunked the attitude test in front of Pat Priest," William Allison, a criminal law professor at the University of Texas, said Tuesday. "It's likely he copped a pretty bad attitude."

DeLay was convicted last November and sentenced Monday on felony charges of conspiracy and money laundering in a scheme to give $190,000 in corporate money illegally to seven Republican state House candidates in 2002.  Priest gave Delay three years in prison on the conspiracy charge and 10 years of probation on the money laundering charge.

Two other recent high profile Central Texas cases involved far less punishment: Former state Rep. Kino Flores, D-Palmview, received probation last month on four felony counts of not properly reporting his income on state ethics forms, income prosecutors said he received by using his official position to demand a 10 percent payment from his business associates.  Flores was sentenced by District Judge Bob Perkins, whom DeLay's lawyers had removed from his case in 2005.

The former general manager of the Pedernales Electric Cooperative, Bennie Fuelberg, in December received a recommendation of probation from a jury on felony charges of illegally funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars in co-op money to his brother.  A final sentence in that case has not been issued.

DeLay's defense lawyer, Dick DeGuerin of Houston, Tuesday said DeLay's sentence is unfair, especially when compared to the one Flores received.  "This was a guy who was known as Mr. Ten Percent. He took a kickback on everything," DeGuerin said.  DeLay "didn't steal any money.  He didn't rob anybody.  He didn't beat anybody up."

Prosecutors had asked Priest for a longer sentence, at least 10 years, so DeLay would have to start serving time immediately.  They said they wanted to send a signal that just because someone wears a suit and a tie does not mean he is going to get probation.... 

Sam Bassett, who was Flores' defense attorney, ... said he "was a little surprised" that DeLay received a prison sentence instead of probation in the case.  He said the case is very different from the financial fraud cases involving people such as Enron's Jeffrey Skilling.  "No one was defrauded or harmed in a direct way," Bassett said.

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January 12, 2011 at 09:07 AM | Permalink

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Comments

The sentence is relatively steep for a first-time, white collar offense, but it's not so out of step that the government need fear its fate on appeal. The government's problem is the conviction itself. The theory of money laundering used here is both novel and counter-intuitive. I argued over 100 appellate cases as an AUSA, and I think the government is in as much trouble here as in any case that came my way.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jan 12, 2011 1:50:14 PM

This sentence confirms the biased witch hunt aims of the partisan prosecution. Republicans should find a scapegoat to return the favor, perhaps Barack Obama with his birth certificate problems. It is very important that Republicans do so. To deter.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jan 13, 2011 12:07:00 AM

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