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money laundering

More on Judge Priest recusing himself

We now have a reason for Judge Pat Priest recusing himself in the upcoming trial of DeLay associates Jim Ellis and John Colyandro.

Senior District Judge Pat Priest , who sentenced DeLay to three years in prison for laundering corporate money into political donations, urged the lawyers for Jim Ellis and John Colyandro to consider plea negotiations at a status conference, according to sources.

The sources asked that their names not be used because they were commenting on a sealed court order.

Sealing a motion to remove a judge is so unusual that it raised red flags about why Priest would remove himself in such a high-profile case. But legal experts, including a senior judge, said Priest’s words to the co-defendants’ lawyers, as described by the sources, did not sound out of line.

“I personally don’t think there is a problem with that,” said Senior District Judge Jon Wisser of Austin.

On Thursday , Priest agreed to remove himself from the upcoming trial of Ellis and Colyandro without explanation in a brief pretrial hearing. The judge, who has spent more than five years overseeing the case, declined to comment for this story.

“It is a super-high publicity case,” Wisser said. “Judge Priest might just be tired of it.”

Several other experts quoted thought it was no big deal, either. I suppose that means it’s fairly standard practice, and I must say that if that’s so, it probably shouldn’t be, and I can see the defense team’s point. Judges should stay out of that discussion for the most part. Having said that, I don’t think Judge Priest’s advice was at all unsound. I’ve always believed that the case against Ellis and Colyandro was much stronger than the case against DeLay, and we know what happened with him. But I’m just some guy on the Internets, and if they like their chances at trial then no one should stand in their way.

One more thing:

Priest is not the first judge whose impartiality has been questioned during the DeLay cases.

In 2005, DeLay objected to the original judge, Bob Perkins , an Austin Democrat, because he had donated to Democratic causes and MoveOn.org, a frequent DeLay critic.

On the other hand, prosecutors objected to Judge B.B. Schraub , a Seguin Republican, because he had given money to Republicans.

Schraub, the region’s presiding judge at the time, recused himself before naming a replacement for Perkins.

Whoever replaces Priest will be judge #4 on the case. I wonder what the record is for most judges and most recusals in a single case.

Judge Priest recuses himself in DeLay associates’ trial

Didn’t see this coming.

Two associates of former U.S House Majority leader Tom DeLay will get a new judge.

State District Judge Pat Priest of San Antonio, who oversaw the month-long trial of DeLay last fall, surprisingly recused himself this morning on a motion submitted by the defense.

John Colyandro of Austin and Jim Ellis of Washington are charged with conspiring to launder corporate money into campaign donations during the 2002 elections, the same charge DeLay was convicted on last fall.

Defense lawyers declined to say why they wanted Priest removed from the case, noting that the motion was sealed. Priest did not give any insight into why he stepped down.

Billy Ray Stubblefield of Georgetown, presiding judge of the Third Administrative Judicial Region, will appoint a new judge. The next court date for the case will be May 23.

Perhaps we’ll find out some day what this was about. Whoever inherits this better get up to speed quickly, lest it take another few years.

UPDATE: Here’s the Chron story, which doesn’t have much more information about this.

Keep talking, Tom

I’ll leave the commentary on Tom DeLay’s dancing prowess to the experts and simply note that he has succeeded in getting himself back in the news. Which means people are asking him for his opinions on things, which in turn means more chances for him to fib and dissemble.

There was one more thing I needed to know, and with the ice pack under his foot melting and his professional dance partner waiting to get back to rehearsing, he himself cut to the chase: “Don’t you want to ask me about Ronnie Earle?” Of course, he was referring to the D.A. who got a Texas grand jury to indict him four years ago, on campaign finance laws; Earle has yet to bring the case to trial, and DeLay has always called the case politically motivated.

So, what is going on with the case? “Well, I can’t get my day in court, that’s what’s going on…Now it’s been four years, one appeal after another, but it’s still hanging out there. All Ronnie Earle ever wanted to do was indict me.”

Of course, the current appeals are being pressed by DeLay’s co-defendants Jim Ellis and John Colyandro, who got a sweetheart ruling from the Republican majority on the Third Court of Appeals last year. The Third Court took forever to get to a ruling in the first place – the appeals Earle made on DeLay’s tossed indictment went all the way to the Court of Criminal Appeals and got a resolution before the Third Court bothered to rouse itself on this one, prompting the Democratic judges on the Court to complain about it being slow-rolled – which the reason why we’re all still waiting for DeLay to get that day in court he says he wants.

Meanwhile, Earle has said he’s considering running for governor, and “What do I say to Ronnie Earle? Run, baby, run. Run, baby run. And I will be at every campaign stop to tell my story.”

I think I speak for every Democrat in Texas when I say please, pretty please with heaping piles of corporate lobbyist cash on it, do exactly that. We would love for you to be out there at every campaign stop, reminding everyone of who you are and why you’re an ex-Congressman. And wear the sequins, too, it’s a great look for you.