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Judge sentences Tom DeLay to 3 years in prison

By Juan A. Lozano

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Jan. 10 2011 11:27 p.m. MST

But not long after Cloeren began testifying, Senior Judge Pat Priest declined to hear the testimony, saying prosecutors couldn't prove the businessman's claims beyond a reasonable doubt. DeLay's attorneys objected to the testimony, saying the former lawmaker was not criminally charged in the case. Cloeren pleaded guilty to directing illegal corporate money into the 1996 congressional campaign of an East Texas candidate.

DeLay's attorneys had indicated they would have up to nine witnesses but decided to present only Hastert.

Hastert, an Illinois Republican who was House speaker from 1999 to 2006, testified that DeLay was not motivated by power but for a need to help others. Hastert talked about DeLay's conservative and religious values, his efforts to provide tax relief for his constituents in Texas, his work helping foster children and the help he provided to the family of one of the police officers who was killed in a 1998 shooting at the U.S. Capitol in Washington.

"That's the real Tom DeLay that a lot of people never got to see," Hastert said.

DeLay's lawyers had also submitted more than 30 character and support letters from friends and political leaders, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and eight current U.S. congressmen. Most of the letters ask for leniency in the sentencing.

After a month-long trial in November, a jury determined that he conspired with two associates to use his Texas-based political action committee to send $190,000 in corporate money to an arm of the Washington-based Republican National Committee. The RNC then sent the same amount to seven Texas House candidates. Under Texas law, corporate money can't go directly to political campaigns.

Prosecutors claim the money helped Republicans take control of the Texas House. That enabled the Republican majority to push through a Delay-engineered congressional redistricting plan that sent more Texas Republicans to Congress in 2004, strengthening DeLay's political power.

DeLay contended the charges were politically motivated and the money swap in question was legal. DeGuerin says DeLay committed no crime and believes the convictions will be overturned on appeal.

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