Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

Pat Priest

New judge in DeLay associates’ case

Meet the new judge, fourth in a series:

The co-defendants of Tom DeLay, who was convicted last fall of conspiring to launder corporate money into political donations, will be tried before state District Judge David Crain, according to a court order filed Wednesday.

Judge Billy Ray Stubblefield, the presiding judge of the Central Texas region, tapped Crain after defense lawyers for Jim Ellis and John Colyandro claimed visiting Judge Pat Priest of San Antonio was biased against their clients. Priest, who sentenced to DeLay to three years in prison, stepped aside earlier this month.

Stubblefield said under the law the Ellis and Colyandro cases automatically return to the 331st District Court, where the felony charges against them originated.

Judge Crain succeeded Judge Bob Perkins in the 331st. Perkins, of course, was the original judge in the DeLay case, before he was removed via a motion to recuse him from the defense. I feel a song coming on:

What the hell, this case has been around since the earth’s crust cooled. Let’s have another song:

I think I’m done now. More here.

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.