Thursday, December 8, 2005
After Judge Priest dismissed one of the three counts against Rep. Tom DeLay (see earlier post here), he has now requested that a severance of the two remaining counts of money laundering and conspiracy so he can go to trial quickly on just the money laundering count. Rep. DeLay and two aides were charged with illegally transferring corporate campaign contributions in 2002 to avoid limitations on such contributions under Texas law. An AP story (here) asserts that if a not guilty verdict were returned on the substantive money laundering count then the conspiracy charge could be moot. Under Texas law, however, conspiracy is a separate crime from the object offense (see Farrington v. State, 489 S.W. 607, 609 (Tx. Ct. Crim. App. 1973)), so a not guilty verdict on the money laundering charge would not necessarily preclude a subsequent trial for conspiracy. It may be that a not guilty verdict in the first trial would call into question the viability of the conspiracy charge, and could even constitute collateral estoppel (if you're flashing back to law school, that haunting vision will pass).
Rep. DeLay clearly hopes to end the case quickly and definitively, but the trial court may not be willing to split the prosecution in half at the cost of having to conduct two trials involving the same evidence, witnesses, etc. Even though the conspiracy and money laundering charges are separate, there is a substantial overlap that usually calls for a single trial. It may be that Rep. DeLay is also seeking a separate trial from his subordinates, which would facilitate a lack-of-knowledge defense on his part. (ph)