Former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay was sentenced to three years in prison today for helping divert corporate funds into Texas candidates' coffers in 2002.
A 12-member jury convicted DeLay of money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering. A Texas judge today sentenced DeLay to a three-year term on the conspiracy charge and five years for the money laundering charge, but allowed DeLay to accept 10 years of probation instead of the extra five years in prison.
DeLay, once one of the most powerful members of the U.S. House of Representatives, could have faced life in prison.
"The Hammer" -- as the Houston-born DeLay came to be known for his hard-hitting ways -- continued to assert his innocence today, telling the judge he couldn't be remorseful for a crime he didn't think he committed.
After 19 hours of deliberation and a three-week trial, a jury concluded that DeLay and two of his associates illegally funneled $190,000 in corporate donations through the Republican National Committee to GOP candidates for the Texas legislature. Under Texas law, candidates cannot use private funds for campaigns.
The prosecution alleged that it was part of a strategy to ensure that Republicans were in charge of drawing the Texas district map that would favor the GOP in Washington.
Republicans won the majority in the Texas House of Representatives in 2002 for the first time since the Civil war period.
DeLay's sentencing comes at the start of the year that is once again expected to feature a redistricting bloodbath as Republicans and Democrats fight over how to draw congressional and district boundaries.
DeLay blamed Democrats and a "rogue" Texas district attorney for indicting him so that he would be removed from his powerful position in Congress.
"All they wanted was the indictment, because the Republicans have a rule that if one of their leaders is indicted he has to temporarily step aside from his leadership position," DeLay told ABC News' Brian Ross in an interview in August. "So the Democrats, all they wanted was the indictment, and that's how they could get rid of me."
The former No. 2 House Republican resigned from his post in 2005 following allegations of ethical misconduct. That same year, his former deputy chief of staff, Tony Rudy, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and corruption charges, further damaging the congressman's reputation. At the time, DeLay said he wasn't aware of some of his staff's illegal activities.
In his interview with Ross, DeLay blamed the media for perpetuating the idea that political corruption is more widespread than it actually is.
"It's not bad enough now to just beat them at policy or let them ruin your reputation," DeLay told Ross. "They've got to bankrupt you, ruin your family, put you in jail, put you in the grave, and then dance on your grace. That's not good for the country."
In November, DeLay blamed the guilty verdict on the "abuse of power."
"This is an abuse of power. It's a miscarriage of justice, and I still maintain that I am innocent. The criminalization of politics undermines our very system and I'm very disappointed in the outcome," DeLay told reporters.
Click to view image: 'Hammer in the Slammer'
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