The day before Rep. Tom DeLay was to make his first appearance at court, the former House majority leader turned himself in Thursday at the Harris County sheriff’s bonding office, where he was photographed, fingerprinted and released on bond on state conspiracy and money laundering charges.
“He posted $10,000 bond and they have left the bonding office,” Lt. John Martin of the sheriff’s department said.
DeLay, accompanied by his attorney, Dick DeGuerin, showed up about 12:15 p.m., appeared before a judge and was gone in less than 30 minutes, Martin said.
The appearance came a day after a state court issued an arrest warrant for DeLay and set an initial bail, a routine step before the Texas Republican’s first court appearance Friday in Austin.
He had been expected to appear for booking in Bend County but went to Houston instead. Under Texas law he could check in anywhere in the state.
DeLay has stepped down as U.S. House majority leader — at least temporarily — under a Republican rule requiring him to relinquish the post if charged with a felony.
Charged with funneling corporate donations
Two grand juries have charged DeLay and two political associates in an alleged scheme to violate state election law by funneling corporate donations to candidates for the Texas Legislature. State law prohibits use of corporate donations to finance state campaigns, although the money can be used for administrative expenses.
The indictments charge that a DeLay-founded Texas political action committee sent corporate donations to the Republican National Committee in Washington, and the national party sent funds back to the state for 2002 campaigns.
DeLay has denied wrongdoing and accused Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle — a Democrat — of having partisan motives.
Earle has denied the accusation. Earle did not ask for the arrest warrant for DeLay but approved the court's request, his office said Wednesday.
“What we're trying to avoid is Ronnie Earle having him taken down in handcuffs and fingerprinted and photographed,” DeGuerin said last month. “That's uncalled for, and I don't think that's going to happen.”
DeLay’s Republican fund-raising in 2002 had major political consequences, allowing the GOP to take control of the Texas Legislature. The Legislature then redrew congressional boundaries according to a DeLay-inspired plan, took command of the state's U.S. House delegation and helped the GOP retain its House majority.