AUSTIN, Texas – Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, appeared in court for the first time Friday to answer the money-laundering and conspiracy charges against him, but the presiding judge quickly adjourned the proceedings after DeLay’s lawyers accused him of bias and asked him to withdraw.
DeLay did not speak during the brief session, in which his attorneys posted a bond for his appearance and explained the grounds for alleging that the judge’s record of campaign contributions to Democrats and liberal organizations demonstrated “a personal bias” against DeLay.
Afterward, DeLay told reporters on the nearby state Capitol grounds that he committed no wrongdoing and expects to be exonerated. Referring to the 2002 state election campaign at the center of the probe that gave rise to two indictments against him, DeLay said: “I have been charged for defeating Democrats. I have been charged for advancing the Republican agenda.”
District Judge Bob Perkins, an elected Democrat in largely Democratic Travis County, expressed concern in court that allegations of bias are arising here whenever a Republican is on trial. But he said the issue of who presides over DeLay’s trial should be decided by the region’s chief administrative judge, an appointed Republican.
The session marked a shift to the courts of a local prosecutor’s two-year probe of actions taken by DeLay and his political associates before the historic 2002 state election, when Republicans gained control of the Texas House for the first time in 130 years.
DeLay was indicted on Sept. 28 and Oct. 3 for allegedly conspiring to inject illegal corporate funds into that 2002 campaign, and for allegedly laundering some of those funds through an arm of the Republican Party in Washington to conceal their corporate origin.
DeLay and his attorneys have chosen to take a highly combative public stance against the charges, depicting them as the fruits of a partisan campaign to undermine his influence and besmirch the Republican Party.
But the indictments have already taken a toll on his political standing: A tracking poll in the Houston area, including his congressional district, by SurveyUSA on Oct. 10 for the first time showed a plurality now supports his resignation from Congress.