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Could Ex-Rep. Tom DeLay Avoid Jail Time?

By Laura Strachan, Esq. on November 30, 2010 8:48 AM

Former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay was found guilty of money laundering and conspiracy. Losing his prestigious position, many thought he would trade in his designer suits for jailhouse orange. Although the money laundering charges can potentially carry a life in prison sentence, DeLay may get out of jail time with a heavy probation sentence.

DeLay is currently appealing his original conviction, as he alleges it was partly the result of a politically motivated prosecutor and jury. DeLay's attorney, Dick DeGuerin, called the original trial a "terrible miscarriage of justice" and a punishment that will "never stand on appeal."

"It is absolutely impossible that he would get anything near life," former federal prosecutor Phillip Hilder told the Associated Press. "It would be a period of a few years, if he gets prison. The judge may be more receptive than a jury. He obviously thinks he will get a fairer shake with the judge. The jury likely would sentence him to prison time."

With or without jail time, a felony conviction means that Tom DeLay will not be able to run for public office or vote until the terms of his sentence are completed. With many white collar crimes, especially in the realm of government corruption, the large amount of judicial leeway is the result of the unique nature of the non-violent crimes.

Although undoubtedly reprehensible, the real harm in a case like this is financial.

For the disgraced former politician, Tom Delay certainly hopes that choosing to be sentenced by a judge rather than a heavily Democratic, Austin-based jury will result in a prison-free punishment.

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