December 14, 2005

More Abuse From Earle

I happen to be one of many who think that if Tom DeLay does have any legitimate legal problems they're likely to be found in his close association with Jack Abramoff, not the sloppy and abusive prosecutorial mumbo-jumbo being served up by Ronnie Earle.

Earle's most recent moves  - one of which includes subpoenaing legal records from an unrelated civil suit against DeLay settled more than a decade ago - give yet another indication that his case is far from solid and that he's reaching out in all directions to desperately shore it up as best he can.

It's too bad there hasn't been more comment on the ethically-challenged manner in which Earle has prosecuted this case.  Prosecutorial abuse can cut against both political parties, and if this case ends in an acquittal or it's tossed out based on a finding of prosecutorial misconduct, Ronnie Earle will have set a new low for partisan abuse of the legal system. That will be a personal disgrace for Earle, but it'll also be a shame for those who either cheered him on or stood by silently for partisan political reasons.

December 05, 2005

Quote of the Day

"If he beats this rap in Austin, he will be back as majority leader, because nobody's going to tell him no." - Republican House aide speaking about Tom DeLay.

RELATED: Judge Pat Priest is expected to rule tomorrow on the motion to dismiss the indictment against DeLay. If the case goes to trial DeLay is history as majority leader.

***UPDATE****: Ruling came today. One indictment thrown out, one upheld. Doesn't look good, but very little info to go on at this point. More later.....

November 17, 2005

A Prosecutor Out Of Control

I'm not talking about Patrick Fitzgerald. As Washington exploded yesterday with the revelation of Bob Woodward's involvement in the Libby case, Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle and his deputies were busy in court defending their conduct prosecuting Tom DeLay.

We already know Earle misfired badly on the first indictment and then tried to paper over the blunder by going to a second grand jury two days later and frantically asking it to return a new indictment. That grand jury refused to bring charges against DeLay, a fact the public did not learn until almost a week later, after yet a third grand jury agreed to indict DeLay on charges of money laundering.

But now we've learned something new. Yesterday in court papers filed in Austin, Earle's office admitted that in the two days following the second grand jury's decision to issue the no-bill on Friday, September 30, "an investigator with Earle's office telephoned several members of the first grand jury, which had been dismissed, and asked whether the evidence they heard would have warranted a first-degree felony charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering."

The Austin American-Statesman (reg req) also reports that, "the opinions of the former grand jurors might have been shared with a third grand jury on Oct. 3, but jurors were told nothing of the secret deliberations by the previous grand jury. On the first day of its term, the third grand jury returned the first-degree felony charges after hearing evidence for a few hours."

I am not a lawyer or legal expert, so I'd love to know if surveying the opinions of former grand jury members on a case and then allegedly using those opinions to try and influence a subsequent grand jury (while purposefully excluding what could only be considered exculpatory information from an immeidately preceding grand jury) is considered standard practice or whether it is well outside the bounds of ethical prosecutorial behavior. I suspect it is almost certainly the latter.

I'd also like to know (as would DeLay's lawyers) how it is that the final grand jury could have gotten this case on the Monday (Oct 3) immediately following the previous grand jury's decision not to indict DeLay (Friday, September 30) and come to a decision after "hearing evidence for a few hours."

Earle was seeking fresh indictments on different charges (money laundering) since it was obvious the charges in the original indictment (criminal conspiracy to violate state campaign laws) weren't going to hold water. Is it plausible to think the final grand jury received a full and fair presentation of the facts and testimony in this case and were able to deliberate on the material with appropriate diligence in less than a single day? Not very likely, especially when you consider the original grand jury took months to hear evidence and deliberated right up until the final day of its term.

October 11, 2005

Ronnie Earle's Law

In the Houston Chronicle today, Janet Elliott looks at the law Ronnie Earle used to get his original indictment against Tom DeLay.

Believe it or not, the law was written with the intent of trying to curb vote fraud at nursing homes. It was passed on September 1, 2003, the year after the alleged money laundering scheme that Earle says DeLay participated in. In other words, there was no law on the books prior to September 1, 2003 that would have allowed Earle to prosecute DeLay for criminal conspiracy.

Think about the details and timeline of this case for a minute: after years of effort and five failed attempts, Ronnie Earle finally got a conspiracy indictment returned on the final day (September 28) of the term of his sixth grand jury. Two days later (September 30), after discovering problems with the original indictment, Earle rushed to present charges before another grand jury. That grand jury issued a "no-bill," effectively rejected Earle's charges against DeLay. Finally, on October 3, after impaneling yet another grand jury, Earle got an indictment returned against DeLay and two associates on charges of money laundering and conspiracy to launder money.

You don't have to be a huge fan of Tom DeLay (and I'm not) to see this as a frantic, reckless, and astonishingly brazen example of prosecutorial abuse that has gone virtually uncommented on by the mainstream media. We've gotten plenty of reports parroting the charges contained in the indictments, but it's almost impossible to find any fact-based reporting or criticism on the dubious ethics and questionable tactics Earle has applied in his fervid pursuit of Tom DeLay.