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October 18, 2005

Delay Refused Pre-Indictment Plea Bargain to Misdemeanor

The Houston Chronicle has the latest in the Texas hold ‘em tournament involving Tom Delay and Ronnie Earle:

U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay's lead attorney Monday said Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle offered to let the congressman plead guilty to a misdemeanor but indicted him on a felony when DeLay refused.

The plea offer was mentioned in a letter to Earle from attorney Dick DeGuerin of Houston that accompanied motions to dismiss the indictments against DeLay. …

DeGuerin said Earle made the plea offer in the context of DeLay keeping his House leadership post.

"You tried to coerce a guilty plea from Tom DeLay for a misdemeanor, stating the alternative was indictment for a felony which would require his stepping down as majority leader," DeGuerin wrote.

"He turned you down, so you had him indicted, in spite of the advice from others in your office that Tom DeLay had committed no crime."

Delay’s attorney seems to be playing up the notion that Earle's later felony indictment was a vengeful move by the prosecutor – a D.A. spitefully going overboard when his original offer was refused. In fact, pre-indictment plea bargaining isn’t all that unusual, especially in white collar crime cases.

What is interesting though, is that the refusal seems to stand as fairly objective evidence that Delay thinks Earle’s case stinks, not just the usual “their case is the worst brought before any court, ever” lawyer blustering.

Now, it might be argued that Delay’s refusal was out of concern that admitting criminal wrongdoing, even a misdemeanor, might strengthen the cases against Jim Ellis and John Colyandro - Delay’s political associates charged in the same overall ‘scheme.’

But to turn down a misdemeanor? And that wouldn’t have even required you to step down as House Leader?

In poker, that kinda shows you don’t think much of your opponent’s hand.

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posted by Dr. Reo Symes at 10:37 AM

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