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AUSTIN, Texas -- The heavy-handed style that made Tom DeLay
one of the nation's most powerful and feared members of Congress
also proved to be his downfall Wednesday when a jury determined he
went too far in trying to influence elections, convicting the
former House majority leader on two felonies that could send him to
prison for decades.

Jurors deliberated for 19 hours before returning guilty verdicts
on charges of money laundering and conspiracy to commit money
laundering in a scheme to illegally funnel corporate money to Texas
candidates in 2002. He faces up to life in prison on the money
laundering charge, although prosecutors haven't yet recommended a
sentence.

After the verdicts were read, DeLay hugged his daughter,
Danielle, and his wife, Christine. DeLay whispered into his
daughter's ear that he couldn't get a fair trial in Austin. DeLay
had unsuccessfully tried to get the trial moved out of Austin, the
most liberal city in one of the most Republican states

DeLay's lead attorney, Dick DeGuerin, said they planned to
appeal the verdict.

This is an abuse of power. It's a miscarriage of justice, and
I still maintain that I am innocent. The criminalization of
politics undermines our very system and I'm very disappointed in
the outcome, DeLay told reporters outside the courtroom.

He remains free on bond, and several witnesses were expected to
be called during the punishment phase of his trial, tentatively
scheduled to begin on Dec. 20.

Prosecutors said DeLay, who once held the No. 2 job in the House
of Representatives and whose tough tactics earned him the nickname
the Hammer, used his political action committee to illegally
channel $190,000 in corporate donations into 2002 Texas legislative
races through a money swap.

DeLay and his attorneys maintained the former Houston-area
congressman did nothing wrong as no corporate funds went to Texas
candidates and the money swap was legal.

The verdict came after a three-week trial in which prosecutors
presented more than 30 witnesses and volumes of e-mails and other
documents. DeLay's attorneys presented five witnesses.

This case is a message from the citizens of the state of Texas
that the public officials they elect to represent them must do so
honestly and ethically, and if not, they'll be held accountable,
Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg said after the
verdict.

Lehmberg said prosecutors will decide in the next few weeks what
sentence they will recommend in the case to Senior Judge Pat
Priest.

DeLay chose Priest to sentence him rather than the jury. He
faces five years to life in prison on the money laundering charge
and two to 20 years on the conspiracy charge. He also would be
eligible for probation.

Jurors, who left the courthouse right after the verdict was
read, declined to comment to reporters, only saying that it had
been a tough decision for them to make.

The jury had sent numerous notes to Priest during its
deliberations, which began on Monday. Many of the notes asked
various legal questions that at one point had prompted the judge to
say the panel wasn't on the right track. But at the end of Tuesday,
jurors had indicated they were making progress.

Prosecutors said DeLay conspired with two associates, John
Colyandro and Jim Ellis, to use his Texas-based PAC to send
$190,000 in corporate money to an arm of the Washington-based
Republican National Committee, or RNC. 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 GOP majority to push through a
Delay-engineered congressional redistricting plan that sent more
Texas Republicans to Congress in 2004 -- and strengthened DeLay's
political power.

DeLay's attorneys argued the money swap resulted in the seven
candidates getting donations from individuals, which they could
legally use in Texas.

They also said DeLay only lent his name to the PAC and had
little involvement in how it was run. Prosecutors, who presented
mostly circumstantial evidence, didn't prove he committed a crime,
they said.

DeLay contended the charges against him were a political
vendetta by Ronnie Earle, the former Democratic Travis County
district attorney who originally brought the case and is now
retired.

Lehmberg, who replaced Earle, said the trial was not about
criminalizing politics.

This was about holding public officials accountable, that no
one is above the law and all persons have to abide by the law, no
matter how powerful or lofty the position he or she might hold,
she said.

Craig McDonald, the director of Texans for Public Justice, a
liberal watchdog group whose complaints with the Travis County
District Attorney's Office helped lead to the investigation of
DeLay's PAC, said he was pleased by the verdict.

We can't undo the 2002 election, but a jury wisely acted to
hold DeLay accountable for conspiring to steal it.

The 2005 criminal charges in Texas, as well as a separate
federal investigation of DeLay's ties to disgraced former lobbyist
Jack Abramoff, ended his 22-year political career representing
suburban Houston. The Justice Department probe into DeLay's ties to
Abramoff ended without any charges filed against DeLay.

Ellis and Colyandro, who face lesser charges, will be tried
later.

Except for a 2009 appearance on ABC's hit television show
Dancing With the Stars, DeLay has been out of the spotlight
since resigning from Congress in 2006. He now runs a consulting
firm based in the Houston suburb of Sugar Land.

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