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Tom DeLay Convicted|of Money Laundering

AUSTIN - Tom DeLay, former majority leader for Republicans in the House of Representatives, was convicted Wednesday of money laundering and conspiracy. He could face from 5 to 99 years in prison, but Judge Pat Priest could let him off with probation.

A state jury convicted DeLay after a 3-week trial and 19 hours of deliberations.

DeLay, 63, as expected, called the verdict, and the trial itself, "an abuse of power."

He was convicted of breaking a Texas law that prohibits corporate donations to political campaigns.

DeLay, known as The Hammer for his brutal style of politics - including redrawing Texas congressional districts 7 years before the traditional every-10-years, to benefit Republicans - told The New York Times after the verdict: "The criminalization of politics undermines our very system."

DeLay was charged with laundering $190,000 by funneling it from one of his PACs, Texans for a Republican Majority, through the National Republican Committee to candidates for Texas office. Corporate lobbyists had donated the money to DeLay's PAC.

DeLay and his attorneys maintained throughout the trial that he did not launder money because it was not the same money as it bounced around - a claim the prosecutor called "ridiculous."

The indictment forced DeLay from Congress after 20 years in the House.

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