WASHINGTON - A Texas prosecutor offered Rep. Tom DeLay a deal to plead guilty to a misdemeanor and save his job as majority leader, but DeLay chose to fight felony charges instead, the congressman's attorney said Monday.
Dick DeGuerin, DeLay's lawyer, described the offer in a letter to the prosecutor as he filed motions in Austin to dismiss felony indictments and - barring dismissal of the case - to seek a speedy trial.
Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle had no immediate comment.
DeLay, R-Texas, has been indicted on conspiracy and money laundering charges in a Texas campaign finance investigation, both felonies. He was obligated to step aside - at least temporarily - under House Republican rules.
"Before the first indictment you tried to coerce a guilty plea from Tom DeLay for a misdemeanor, stating the alternative was indictment for a felony which would require his stepping down as majority leader of the United States House of Representatives," DeGuerin wrote Earle.
"He turned you down flat so you had him indicted, in spite of advice from others in your office that Tom DeLay had not committed any crime," the lawyer wrote.
DeLay and two political associates are accused of using corporate money to finance the campaigns of Texas Republican candidates for the state Legislature. Texas law prohibits corporate political donations in state political campaigns.
The charges allege that DeLay, two political associates and a Texas political action committee started by DeLay sent corporate money to the Republican National Committee in Washington - and that the RNC sent the funds back to Texas for the legislative candidates.
The donations helped Republicans win control of the Legislature in the 2002 elections and gain approval of a DeLay-inspired congressional redistricting plan that later helped the GOP retain control of the U.S. House.
In a series of filings prior to the Texas Republican's arraignment Friday in Austin, DeGuerin asked for:
-A speedy trial, because the indictments "have already had adverse collateral consequences including the temporary loss of Tom DeLay's leadership position in the United States Congress and an unknown effect on the upcoming (March 2006) primary election."
-Dismissal of the indictments because, he contended, they failed to allege any act or omission by DeLay and improperly joined two offenses.
-Separation of DeLay's case from that of two political associates charged as co-conspirators, because DeLay wants a speedy trial while the associates are pursuing appeals that would delay their cases.
DeLay will likely be booked in a Texas county jail this week despite attempts by his attorneys to bypass the fingerprinting and mug shot process.
Steve Brittain, one of DeLay's Austin attorneys, also said the lawmaker has the option of turning himself in to Fort Bend County authorities, the county where DeLay resides.