updated 9/30/2005 7:44:49 AM ET 2005-09-30T11:44:49

Rep. Tom DeLay was ordered to appear in a Texas courtroom on Oct. 21 to face the conspiracy charge that forced him to step down as House majority leader.

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As he battles the charge, meanwhile, the Texas lawmaker will serve as a “very powerful adviser” to the Republican leadership, a GOP spokesman said Thursday.

“His experience and insight for over a decade of the Republican majority is invaluable to our leadership and to our members and will be used wisely,” said Ron Bonjean, spokesman for House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill.

DeLay was charged this week with conspiring with two political associates to use corporate donations to support Texas legislative candidates.

DeLay provides new details
On Thursday, he provided new details about his behind-the scenes effort to try to convince prosecutors he shouldn’t be indicted.

DeLay contended that after he recently met voluntarily with prosecutors, he was led to believe “it was pretty much over” and he would be spared indictment in a state campaign finance investigation.

Two weeks ago, he said, the landscape suddenly changed because Travis County (Texas) District Attorney Ronnie Earle buckled under pressure from fellow Democrats and the media, and tried to blame the switch on a “runaway” grand jury.

Earle has consistently denied the investigation of DeLay and his associates was political and has pointed out he has prosecuted more Democrats than Republicans.

The Austin, Texas, grand jury charged that the conspirators carried out the scheme by having the DeLay-founded Texans for a Republican Majority Political Action Committee send corporate money to the Republican National Committee in Washington. The RNC then sent back a like amount — $190,000 — to distribute to Texas candidates.

Criminal conspiracy is a Texas felony punishable by six months to two years in a state jail and a fine of up to $10,000. The potential two-year sentence forced DeLay to step down as majority leader under House Republican rules.

DeLay was summoned by a judge to appear in court in Austin on Oct. 21, but his lawyers are working to spare him the humiliation of being handcuffed, photographed and fingerprinted.

'It was pretty much over,' DeLay says
DeLay went on the offensive Thursday in several broadcast interviews. The lawmaker said he thought he convinced prosecutors in a voluntary interview that he had little to do with operations of fundraising committee, known as TRMPAC.

“I got the impression from his (Earle’s) chief prosecutor that they knew I had nothing to do with the day-to-day operation, that there was no conspiracy as far as I’m concerned,” he said.

“In the following days after that, it was pretty much over until two weeks ago and Ronnie Earle made the statement that I was never part of this investigation publicly,” he said.

DeLay said everything changed because Democrats put pressure on Earle and the local newspaper, the Austin American-Statesman, wrote an editorial critical of Earle because the majority leader had not been indicted.

The grand jury has indicted three of DeLay’s political associates, a Texas business association, several corporations and TRMPAC.

DeLay said Earle explained the change in thinking by telling DeLay’s lawyers “that he has a runaway grand jury, the sixth grand jury he has impaneled and they’re going to indict me.”

DeLay said the change surprised him, because “we went to work and we were under the impression that he probably wasn’t (going to indict), or he would have ... called me to testify before the grand jury. I have not testified before the grand jury to present my side of the case, and they indicted me.”

DeLay alleges Democratic influence
The former leader also said Earle was working with Democratic leaders in Washington to have him indicted.

“There is very good evidence that they announced the strategy publicly, they put it on their Web site and their strategy is in their fundraising letters,” he said, adding he was referring to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

“The evidence is coming,” he said, but did not immediately offer any.

DeLay, 58, was indicted on a single felony count of conspiring with Jim Ellis and John Colyandro to violate state election law by using corporate donations illegally. Texas law prohibits use of corporate contributions to advocate the election or defeat of candidates.

The Associated Press learned Thursday that one witness before the grand jury was a former political director of the Republican National Committee, Terry Nelson, according to an official familiar with the grand jury deliberations who did not want to be identified speaking about grand jury matters.

The indictment said Nelson received a check for $190,000 in September 2002 that contained corporate donations given to a DeLay-founded Texas political committee. Ellis, the DeLay associate, gave Nelson the check and also the names of Texas state House candidates who were to receive contributions from the donations, according to the indictment.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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