The Associated Press is reporting that House Majority Leader Tom DeLay has been indicted by a Texas grand jury:
A Texas grand jury on Wednesday charged Rep. Tom DeLay and two political associates with conspiracy in a campaign finance scheme, an indictment that could force him to step down as House majority leader.
More details will surely be available shortly.
UPDATE: Here is an excerpt from Laylin Copelin’s reporting for the Austin American-Statesman:
A Travis County grand jury today indicted U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay on one count of criminal conspiracy, jeopardizing the Sugar Land Republican’s leadership role as the second most powerful Texan in Washington, D.C.
The charge, a state jail felony punishable by up to two years incarceration, stems from his role with his political committee, Texans for a Republican Majority, a now-defunct organization that already had been indicted on charges of illegally using corporate money during the 2002 legislative elections.
The grand jury, however, took no action against Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick, Texas Association of Business President Bill Hammond or state Reps. Dianne Delisi and Beverly Woolley, both of whom sit on the political committee’s board, for their roles in the election.
The grand jury’s term ended today.
Delay’s defense team will hold a press conference in Austin later this afternoon. The team includes defense attorneys Bill White and Steve Brittain of Austin and Dick DeGuerin of Houston.
[A] conspiracy charge falls under the criminal code, not the election statute that bans corporate money from being spent on a campaign. And Earle has the jurisdiction to prosecute DeLay for conspiring with others to circumvent state law.
In recent days, the broad-based investigation has focused on one particular transaction during the 2002 campaign.
As late as Tuesday, Travis County prosecutors were interviewing Republican National Committee staffers about their roles in the transaction.
That prosecutors were scrambling so hard against the deadline and pulled out a conspiracy charge makes one wonder about the likelihood of conviction. Nonetheless, the House leadership will be forced to go to its deep bench now, and partisans on both sides will surely be howling for a while.
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