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December 6, 2005
What The Media Ignored In Its DeLay Reports

Yesterday, Tom DeLay won an impressive ruling from Judge Pat Priest in his trial on money-laundering and conspiracy charges surrounding the transfers of cash between local and national GOP organizations three years ago. Priest dismissed the original indictment of DeLay, the grand jury bill in which prosecutor and DeLay's personal Jauvert Ronnie Earle felt so confident that he immediately went out and burned through two more grand juries to get a different indictment just to be sure he could get something that stuck. However, if one reads the Washington Post and the New York Times this morning, it would appear that DeLay lost yesterday -- because both papers leave out a significant portion of the story.

Both papers get this much correct:

A Texas judge dismissed one charge against Representative Tom Delay on Monday but let stand two more serious charges, complicating Mr. DeLay's hopes of regaining his post as House majority leader when Congress resumes in January. (NYT) ...

Senior District Judge Pat Priest, who took over the case after DeLay's lawyers objected to another judge on political grounds, did not rule in his 11-page decision on the issue of DeLay's culpability. In a slap at Texas prosecutor Ronnie Earle, who oversaw the DeLay inquiry, Priest said a grand jury had erred in indicting DeLay for conspiracy when that crime was actually not covered by the state election law when it occurred. (WaPo)

Here's what the NYT hides until the last paragraph of its coverage, and what the Washington Post doesn't bother to report at all except as a potential delay to a trial:

Judge Priest also said he had yet to rule on a defense motion of prosecutorial misconduct.

The motion regarding prosecutorial misconduct relates directly to the two remaining charges. If the judge rules that Earle acted unethically or illegally in getting the indictment, the remaining charges will also get dismissed -- and it seems a fair bet that it will happen, especially since Priest hasn't yet dismissed the motion out of hand. Earle went out after the first grand jury refused to indict DeLay on money-laundering charges and tried to get a second grand jury to bring an indictment. When that failed, he formed a third grand jury without ever telling them (or the court) about the second grand jury and got the indictment within four hours of forming the third pool. That bill comprises all the remaining charges against DeLay.

Now, perhaps Ronnie Earle has a really good explanation for his frantic grand-jury shopping, but what it most shows is an inordinate desire to find any charge at all with which to kneecap a political nemesis. After all, Earle had done fund-raising tours for the Democrats based on his efforts to put DeLay in the dock. A failure to get an indictment that would hold up on first exposure in court -- a failure easily predicted and one which Judge Priest made reality yesterday -- would expose Earle as a partisan hack of the worst kind, one who abuses his authority to defeat opponents he or his party can't defeat legitimately.

And so here we are, with the first bill of indictment completely dismissed and the second only affirmed in that the law cited in the indictment actually existed and covers the allegations made by the third grand jury. The judge warned everyone that despite his ruling on dismissal on the basis of the defense's original motion to quash, he still had prosecutorial misconduct under consideration -- and all that the dismissal meant was that the charges could go to trial, not that DeLay had been found guilty of anything. Amazingly, both newspapers offer reports this morning that avoid the pending ruling on prosecutorial misconduct and treat the ruling as a body blow to DeLay.

Talk about spin! Earle got humiliated yesterday with the loss of his primary indictment and the announcement that Priest has apparently found the motion on misconduct interesting enough to continue his deliberations. That is a result that the NY Times and Washington Post cannot hide from informed readers no matter how much they attempt to bolster Earle's campaign against DeLay.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 6, 2005 5:43 AM

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