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Ronnie Earl's Political Prosecutions

The DeLay Indictment

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Updated October 04, 2005
US Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) has been indicted on a felony conspiracy charge stemming from political campaign contributions.

Travis County (TX) District Attorney Ronnie Earle has a record of prosecuting politicians. Texas law does not allow the Attorney General to prosecute infractions dealing with state campaigns or crimes against the state; instead, that responsibility lies with the Travis County DA office.

Earle's office (before the DeLay indictment) has been credited with prosecuting approximately 12 Democrats and three Republicans.

I have found 11 indictments (DeLay bumps the number of Republicans to four). In reverse chronological order:
  1. 2005, US Rep Tom Delay (R)
    One count of felony criminal conspiracy involving illegal campaign contributions. (cite)
  2. 1995, State Rep. Betty Denton (D)
    Indicted on felony counts of perjury and records tampering for listing false loans and contributions on campaign finance reports.; pleaded guilty to lesser charges. Six months probation and $2,000 fine. (cite1, cite2)
  3. 1995, State Rep. Lane Denton (D) .
    Convicted of felony theft and misapplication of fiduciary property for funneling money from the Department of Public Safety Officers Association to a Denton company. Sentenced to 60 days in jail/work release program, six years' probation, and $6,000 in fines and more than $67,000 restitution. (cite1, cite2)
  4. 1994, US Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R)
    Charged with misdemeanor and felony counts of official misconduct and records tampering. Acquitted after Earle dropped the case due to the Judge ruling that key evidence was inadmissable. (cite1, cite2, cite3)
  5. 1992, State House Speaker Gib Lewis (D)
    Charged with gift-reporting and financial-disclosure violations. Plea bargain on misdemeanor ethics charges; $2,000 fine; the judge said he took into consideration that Lewis was retiring from public office. (cite1, cite2)
  6. 1990, State Rep. Chip Staniswallis (R)
    Indicted for tampering with government records; pleaded guilty to felony theft. (cite)
  7. 1985, Attorney General Jim Mattox (D)
    Indicted on felony bribery charges. Acquitted. Won re-election. (cite1, cite2)
  8. 1982, State Treasurer Warren Harding (D)
    Indicted on two felonies for political misuse of office. Pleaded no contest to misdemeanor charges. Did not run for re-election. (cite1, cite2)
  9. 1982, State Rep. Mike Martin (R)
    Indicted on aggravated perjury charges. Pleaded guilty; did not run for re-eletion. (cite1, cite2)
  10. 1980, State Sen. Gene Jones, (D)
    Indicted for official misconduct. Entered plea bargain for misuse of state computer.
  11. 1978, Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Yarbrough (D)
    Indicted and convicted of aggravated perjury for lying to grand jury investigating allegations that he was plotting to have an associate killed. Sentenced to five years; voluntarily gave up seat. (cite1, cite2)


And these investigations without indictments:
  • 2002 : David Bradley (R), Bob Offutt (R), Joe Bernal (D) - Texas Board of Education (cite)
  • ND, Bob Bullock (D) - Comptroller (Comptroller, 1974-1990 - cite)
Also, in 1983, Earle filed misdemeanor charges against himself for untimely reporting of 1981 and 1982 campaign finances; he paid a $211 fine. (cite)

Role of the Grand Jury A grand jury determines probable cause, not "guilt" or "innocence". Is there probable cause that a crime has been committed? According to the American Bar Association:
    Since the role of the grand jury is only to determine probable cause, there is no need for the jury to hear all the evidence, or even conflicting evidence. It is left to the good faith of the prosecutor to present conflicting evidence.
Regarding access to counsel, another of DeGuerin's reasons for supporting DeLay's decision not to testify:
    In the federal system, a witness cannot have his or her lawyer present in the grand jury room, although witnesses may interrupt their testimony and leave the grand jury room to consult with their lawyer. A few states do allow a lawyer to accompany the witness; some allow the lawyer to advise his or her client, others merely allow the lawyer to observe the proceeding.
The grand jury system was established by the fifth amendment to the Constitution. All but two states and the District of Columbia use grand juries to indict, according to the University of Dayton law school; Connecticut and Pennsylvania have retained the investigating grand jury. A subset of these states, 23, require that grand jury indictments be used for specific crimes; Texas is in this subset.

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