Friday, November 04, 2005
AAS: In rapid motions, judge picked for DeLay case - Nov. 4
GOP justice ignores questions about his ties to DeLay committee to make appointment.
The judicial carousel in U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay's conspiracy case almost spun out of control Thursday as the search for a judge beyond the hint of any political taint reached the chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court.
Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson, a Republican, named Pat Priest, a retired Democratic judge from his hometown of San Antonio, to hear the case but not before Jefferson's own multiple ties to DeLay's political operation were questioned.
Jefferson waved off questions about those ties Thursday afternoon as he searched for a judge to hear the biggest political trial in Texas for this generation. He tapped Priest just minutes before prosecutors filed a motion questioning the perception that Jefferson has too many ties to DeLay's committee and co-defendants to be impartial.
Jefferson shared the same campaign treasurer and a consultant as DeLay's Texans for a Republican Majority. One of his largest campaign donations $25,000 was from the arm of the Republican National Committee that is at the center of the allegation that DeLay and his co-defendants laundered corporate money into political donations in 2002.
The justice also traveled in 2002 on a campaign swing with one DeLay co-defendant, John Colyandro, on a plane provided by a law partner of a lawyer representing another DeLay co-defendant, Jim Ellis. He also attended a Houston fundraiser with the chairman of the Republican National Committee at the house of a board member of Texans for a Republican Majority.
Finally, DeLay's political action committee endorsed Jefferson.
"So what?" said DeLay's lawyer Dick DeGuerin, left. "Is (Travis County District Attorney) Ronnie Earle saying he (Jefferson) appointed the wrong judge? It's a done deal. It's over."
Earle, who is prosecuting DeLay, did not comment Thursday night beyond his written legal motions. But the prosecutor's only recourse might be to challenge Priest if there is a reason to question his impartiality.
A search of state and federal databases late Thursday showed Priest gave $150 each to three Democratic state representatives from San Antonio in 2004.
Full Story - Austin American-Statesman. D.H.: Judge Priest is a highly-regarded judge who has presided over a number of high-profile cases with a strong reputation for fairness. First elected as a judge in 1980, he has taught criminal law and procedure and trial advocacy at St. Mary's Law School, where I graduated in 1973, and is the author of an article in the Texas Bar Journal entitled, "Eyewitness Identification And the Scientific Method." He is also the author of "Texas Courtroom Criminal Evidence."
lawfirm webpage: www.haigler.info
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