Source Pravda.Ru

US top republican DeLay first appeared in court for alleged money machinations

Leading US Republican politician Tom DeLay has appeared in court for the first time since his indictment on money laundering and conspiracy counts.

But the Texas court agreed to delay Mr DeLay's arraignment, or formal calling before a court to answer the charges.

Lawyers for the former House majority leader had asked the judge to postpone proceedings until a ruling on Mr DeLay's bid for a new judge is heard.

He is accused of breaking campaign finance law, but denies the charges.

Mr DeLay is alleged to have laundered $190,000 (Ј108,000) in corporate contributions for use in Republican campaigns in Texas.

State law forbids the use of corporate money for political campaigns, reports BBC.

DeLay appeared relaxed as he sat next to his wife in the courtroom. Earlier, he had entered the courthouse through a side door to avoid the cameras.

DeLay and two political associates have been charged in an alleged scheme to funnel corporate donations to Republican candidates for the Texas legislature. State law prohibits use of corporate donations to elect or defeat state candidates. All three deny wrongdoing.

The case has had a political cast from the outset. The charges arise from a campaign in which Republicans gained control of the legislature, then used their new majority to force through a redistricting plan that netted additional Republican seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Prosecutor Ronnie Earle, whom DeLay has repeatedly denounced as a Democratic partisan, brushed aside the request for a new judge.

"What this means is if a judge had contributed to Crime Stoppers that judge could not hear a burglary case," Earle said. "Carried to its extreme, that is what I think this motion means and I think that's absurd."

"We don't live in a country where political party determines the measure of justice," Earle said, adding that he though DeLay could get a fair trial in Austin, the state's capital.

DeLay's indictment has sent ripples as far away as Washington. With an eye on the 2006 elections, Democrats have sought to turn him into a symbol of what they depict as an ethically-challenged Republican majority, informs CBC.

P.T.

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