Tom DeLay has responded to his indictment for conspiracy and money laundering by attacking Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle’s integrity. As part of this strategy he questioned how much Earle spent investigating his crimes. TheHouston Chronicle filed a Texas Open Records Act request for a detailed accounting of all expenditures on the case that was supported by Texas’ Republikkkan Attorney General Greg Abbott (and don’t for a second to believe that Tom DeLay is not powerful enough to get his hometown paper to make such a request).
YesterdayDeLay and his cronies lost – big time – and were embarrassed when Earle revealed that to date he has spent a meager $41,000 on the investigation.
On Thursday, State District Judge Scott Jenkins handed [Travis County District Attorney Ronnie] Earle a victory, ruling that state law allows prosecutors to keep their work product confidential. He also ruled that most of what Earle doesn’t want to give to the public can be kept secret, at least for now.
“This ruling supports law enforcement by keeping criminal defendants from gaining premature access to sensitive or life-threatening information that could compromise an investigation,” Earle said in a written statement.
The issue emerged when the Houston Chronicle sought documents showing how much Earle spent investigating DeLay, who was indicted in 2005 on charges he laundered corporate money into campaign donations. A trial is not expected until next year.
This month, Earle released the amount — $41,100 — he said was spent on research, transcribing witness statements, and hiring outside experts and other assistance for the investigation.
But he blacked out the names of witnesses, experts and other information he said would disclose prosecutors’ legal strategy.
To disclose that, Earle’s lawyer Tim Labadie argued, would create a road map for DeLay’s lawyers. In one instance, First Assistant District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg testified that Earle blacked out the name of a person — “in the nature of an informant” — who had sent information via FedEx.
Jenkins said he was concerned that those charged with crimes could use the Public Information Act to glean information about the investigations against them.