Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay leaves the Travis County Jail after… (Ben Sklar / Getty Images )
Reporting from Austin, Texas — Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay was sentenced Monday to three years in prison for his role in a money-laundering scheme that helped Republicans reshape Texas politics nearly a decade ago.
State District Judge Pat Priest rejected a defense request for probation and said he agreed with a jury's November verdict that DeLay illegally helped funnel $190,000 in corporate money to Republican candidates for the Texas Legislature in 2002, a violation of state law. That money helped the GOP gain control of the Texas House, a power the party used to redraw congressional boundaries following a plan DeLay helped engineer.
DeLay, whose swagger and sharp elbows inspired the loyalty of his party and the ire of Democrats, remained unapologetic at his sentencing.
Addressing the court before his sentence was read, he acknowledged he was both arrogant and passionate to the point of appearing angry at times, but said he did not violate the law. He blamed his travails on the criminalization of politics and selective prosecution.
"Judge, I can't be remorseful for something I don't think I did," he said.
The former Houston-area congressman opted to have Priest sentence him instead of the jury. His three-year prison term is for conspiracy to commit money laundering. He will remain free pending an appeal, a process that could take years. He also received 10 years probation on a separate charge of money laundering.
After the sentencing, DeLay's lawyer, Dick DeGuerin, predicted that the judgment would be overturned on appeal.
In court, DeGuerin portrayed his client as a man who had already been punished enough by the six-year case that led to his precipitous fall from the public stage and the ruin of his political life.
"He has fallen from the third most powerful position in this country to a man who is unemployed and unemployable," DeGuerin said.
DeLay was indicted in 2005, three years after House Republicans had elected him majority leader. He resigned his seat in Congress the next year and largely withdrew from public life, with the notable exception of his appearance on the television show "Dancing with the Stars."
DeLay said Monday that he had raised and spent $10 million on his defense for a crime that was nothing more than politics as usual.
"I fought the fight, ran the race, kept the faith," he said.
Prosecutors, in asking Priest to sentence DeLay to a minimum 10 years in prison, had hoped to show his wrongdoing was part of a pattern of unethical behavior dating from his political heyday when he earned the nickname "The Hammer" for his take-no-prisoners tactics.
Former House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) testified Monday on behalf of DeLay, his friend and former colleague. He said that few in the public ever saw the side of the man who worked out of the spotlight on a variety of causes, including helping foster children.
"That's the real Tom DeLay a lot of people never got to see," he said.
But lead prosecutor Gary Cobb said that DeLay deserved prison time for putting his party and his ambitions above Texas law, and remaining remorseless after his conviction. Cobb said he was satisfied with the sentence.
"I think Tom DeLay said it best," he said. "He said he was arrogant."
Meyer writes for The Times.