HOUSTON — Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Sugar Land) turned himself in to the Harris County sheriff’s department here Oct. 20 to face money laundering and conspiracy charges. The charges stem from allegations that he illegally used corporate funds in the 2002 state elections.

DeLay’s attorney, Dick DeGuerin, did not want his client “perp-walked” in front of cameras. This was avoided by having DeLay surrender to the sheriff. He was photographed, fingerprinted and released. His mug shot shows him grinning like he just won the state lottery.

DeLay now enjoys the distinction of being the only House leader to be indicted in at least 50 years.

DeLay’s lawyer unleashed a volley of legal attacks on the prosecuting district attorney, Ronnie Earle. Earle, a Democrat, is well known for having prosecuted more Democrats than Republicans in his long career. Nevertheless, DeLay continues to claim the charges are politically motivated. He asked that Earle be investigated for prosecutorial misconduct.

When he appeared in court on Oct. 21, DeLay moved that District Judge Bob Perkins, also a Democrat, be removed from the case because he has made contributions to political organizations opposed to DeLay.

Attorney DeGuerin filed motions to dismiss the indictments against DeLay on various technicalities. He is also pushing for a quick trial for DeLay and co-defendants Jim Ellis, director of DeLay’s Americans for a Republican Majority, and John Colyandro, former executive director of DeLay’s Texans for a Republican Majority. If upheld, the charges against DeLay are punishable by a maximum life sentence and a $10,000 fine.

Local residents say DeLay and his attorneys are trying to create a political circus. A letter to the editor in the Houston Chronicle says, “I think it is revealing that U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay is not claiming that he is ‘not guilty.’” DeLay’s “lowest trick,” the writer notes, “has been the attempt to get a judge to allow DeLay’s lawyer Dick DeGuerin to question members of the grand jury and Earle.” The writer continues, “Grand jury business should always be done in secret so that attempted intimidation of this very sort cannot be brought to bear on individual members of the grand jury panel.”

DeLay’s attacks on the court are “just dirty politics,” said Houston Communist Party USA activist Sterling Dafydd.

Mike McCollum, a member of the Progressive Action Alliance, said DeLay shows “what the Republican Party is really all about — control of our country by the well-to-do and the corporations while the little guy gets left behind.” He called DeLay’s efforts to throw mud at the prosecutor “a clear act of desperation.” McCollum said, “The facts of the case will clearly show that Earle is acting responsibly and only doing his job.”