Indicted Rep. Tom DeLay’s attorneys turned the tables on a Texas prosecutor Tuesday, delivering a subpoena to compel his testimony about his conduct with grand jurors.
Defense attorney Dick DeGuerin, who contends there was misconduct by prosecutors, said Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle refused the subpoena at his Austin office when he declined to sign a paper acknowledging its delivery. Earle said he had voluntarily accepted the subpoena.
The subpoena is part of the defense tactic to have charges dismissed before trial against DeLay, R-Texas, who was obligated to temporarily step aside as House majority leader when charged with conspiracy and money laundering in a state campaign finance investigation. DeLay has denied any wrongdoing.
DeGuerin wants Earle and two of his assistants to testify, alleging prosecutors had improper contact with two grand juries that indicted DeLay and one that refused to file charges.
DeGuerin said he would have Earle’s subpoena redelivered Wednesday. Earle responded that it wasn’t necessary.
“It was not a properly prepared subpoena but we accepted service voluntarily anyway,” the prosecutor said.
DeGuerin also asked that grand jurors be released from their secrecy oath so they could answer questions about the prosecutor’s conduct.
Earle’s office said in a written statement, “Because of laws protecting grand jury secrecy, there are limitations to what we can say at this time, but we fully expect to prevail in this matter.”
DeGuerin wants Earle to answer 12 questions about conversations he had with grand jurors, including whether the prosecutor became angry when a grand jury decided against an indictment of DeLay and why that decision was not publicly released.
He also wants to know the details of Earle’s conversation with William Gibson, foreman of a grand jury that indicted DeLay on conspiracy charges, whose term has since ended.
“If you did nothing improper, you should not be concerned about answering these questions,” DeGuerin said in his letter to Earle.
Earle, leading a Texas campaign finance investigation that indicted DeLay and two political associates, went to three grand juries. He presented evidence on DeLay’s alleged role in funneling corporate money to Texas legislative candidates in violation of state law.
The first grand jury indicted DeLay on conspiracy charges, the second failed to indict and the third indicted him on an allegation of money laundering. DeLay has said he is innocent of wrongdoing.
DeLay has accused Earle — a Democrat — of pursuing the case against him for political reasons. Earle has denied any political motives.
In a motion filed last week, the defense team said that from Sept. 29 through Oct. 3, Earle and his staff “unlawfully participated in grand jury deliberations and attempted to browbeat and coerce” the grand jury that refused to indict DeLay.
The motion said Earle then attempted to cover up and delay public disclosure of the refusal, and also “incited” the foreman of the first grand jury to violate grand jury secrecy by talking publicly about the case — in an effort to influence grand jurors still sitting.
The foreman, William Gibson, gave media interviews after the grand jury finished its work but told The Associated Press that Earle did not ask him to discuss the case.
“That’s a bunch of (expletive) there,” Gibson said. “That man did not talk to me.”
He said Earle advised him and other grand jurors to keep an open mind as they considered evidence and cautioned them, “What goes on behind closed doors is secret.”
The lawyers said Earle then spoke about the case with members of the first grand jury, whose work was finished, to get their opinion of what they might have done if they had known their conspiracy indictment was flawed — as defense attorneys alleged.
Earle then submitted the grand jury opinions to the third grand jury to persuade it to hand down the money laundering indictment, the defense team contended.
The indictments against DeLay triggered a House Republican rule that forced him to step aside — at least temporarily — from his post as majority leader.
Both indictments of DeLay focused on an alleged scheme to move money around and conceal the use of corporate contributions to support Texas Republican legislative candidates. State law prohibits use of corporate donations to support or oppose state candidates, allowing the money to go only for administrative expenses.
DeGuerin is asking for all documents, notes, telephone records and other relevant materials from Earle’s staff.
“I am determined to put on record the steps taken by you and your staff to obtain a replacement indictment against my client, Tom DeLay,” DeGuerin said in a letter to the prosecutor.