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On the October 3 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, MSNBC correspondent David Shuster reported that former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) called Ronnie Earle -- the Travis County, Texas, district attorney who filed conspiracy and money laundering charges against DeLay -- "a partisan fanatic, a rogue district attorney." But Shuster did not inform viewers that of the 15 previous instances in which Earle has won an indictment against a government official, 12 involved charges against Democrats.
To clarify the continuing misinformation that has been propagated on this subject (see here, here, here, here, and here), Media Matters for America has compiled a list of those prosecutions below. Partial lists of officials Earle has prosecuted can also be found on the websites of the Austin American-Statesman and the Houston Chronicle (subscription only).
- U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, 1993
Hutchison was indicted September 27, 1993, on felony charges of official misconduct, tampering with government records, and tampering with physical evidence during her tenure as Texas state treasurer. The original charges were dismissed October 26, 1993, due to unrelated criminal charges against one of the members of the grand jury that issued the indictment. Hutchison was re-indicted December 8, 1993, on felony charges of official misconduct, tampering with government records, and tampering with physical evidence, and one misdemeanor count of official misconduct. A judge rejected four out of the five charges on December 27, 1993, telling prosecutors they needed to add more details to the charges. Hutchison was later re-indicted on these charges. A judge acquitted Hutchison of all charges on February 11, 1994, after Earle declined to present any evidence against her. At the time, Earle explained that he feared the judge would suppress evidence crucial to the prosecution. The judge had refused to issue a ruling on the evidence prior to the trial, and there would have been no opportunity to appeal if the judge suppressed the evidence once the trial had begun. According to the February 12, 1994, Houston Chronicle, Earle explained, "We were convinced that the public interest demanded that we not proceed to a verdict that we thought was going to be unfair, that would set a new standard [for public officials' behavior] that would not be in the public interest." [Houston Chronicle, 9/28/93, 10/27/93, 12/28/93, 1/12/94, 2/12/94]
- Texas Rep. Charles Staniswalis (Amarillo), 1990
Staniswalis was indicted on charges of tampering with government records and pleaded guilty to felony theft in 1990. [Knight Ridder, 9/29/05; Houston Chronicle, 3/18/04 (subscription only)]
- Texas Rep. Mike Martin (Longview), 1981
Martin was indicted September 3, 1981, on felony charges of aggravated perjury for falsely testifying that he did not have himself shot to gain favorable publicity. He pleaded guilty on April 22, 1982, to a misdemeanor charge of perjury and agreed not to run for re-election. [Associated Press, 9/3/91, 4/22/82]
- Former Texas Rep. Gilbert Serna (El Paso), 1999
Serna was indicted December 1, 1999, on charges of taking kickbacks from employees while in office. He pleaded guilty May 19, 2000, to felony theft charges. [Houston Chronicle, 3/18/04 (subscription only); Associated Press, 12/2/99; Austin American-Statesman, 5/23/00]
- Texas Rep. Lane Denton (Waco), 1995
Denton was convicted of funneling money "from a nonprofit troopers' association he headed to a fund-raising company he helped create." [Austin American-Statesman, 9/2/95]
- Texas Rep. Betty Denton (Waco), 1993
Denton was indicted January 12, 1993, on charges of tampering with a government record and perjury. She pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of tampering with a government record. [The Dallas Morning News, 1/15/93; Austin American-Statesman, 8/15/95]
- Texas House Speaker Gib Lewis (Fort Worth), 1990
Lewis was indicted December 28, 1990, on charges of accepting a gift from a law firm with an interest in pending legislation and failing to report that gift on a personal financial statement. He pleaded no contest to two misdemeanor ethics counts and was fined $2,000. [The New York Times, 1/24/92]
- San Antonio voter registrar Marco Gomez, 1992
Gomez pleaded guilty to a charge of tampering with a government record. [Houston Chronicle, 3/18/04 (subscription only)]
- Texas Attorney General Jim Mattox, 1983
Mattox was indicted September 13, 1983, on a charge of commercial bribery. He was acquitted March 14, 1985. [Associated Press, 9/13/83; The New York Times, 3/16/85]
- Travis County commissioner Bob Honts*, 1984
Honts pleaded guilty to official misconduct. [Austin American-Statesman, 10/2/05]
- Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle, 1983
Earle pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges he filed against himself for failing to file campaign expense reports in 1981 and 1982. [Associated Press, 3/15/83]
- Texas Treasurer Warren Harding, 1982
Harding was indicted on two felony charges for political misuse of office. He subsequently pleaded no contest to misdemeanor official misconduct. [Knight Ridder, 9/29/05; Houston Chronicle, 3/18/04 (subscription only)]
- Texas Sen. Gene Jones (Houston), 1980
Jones was indicted on charges of official misconduct. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of official misconduct for using a state computer for political purposes. [Austin American-Statesman, 10/2/05; Houston Chronicle, 3/18/04 (subscription only)]
- Travis County Commissioner Bob Honts*, 1979
Honts pleaded guilty to misdemeanor misapplication of county property. [Houston Chronicle, 3/18/04 (subscription only)]
- Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Yarbrough, 1977
Yarbrough was indicted June 30, 1977, on forgery and aggravated perjury charges. He was found guilty of aggravated perjury January 27, 1978, and sentenced to five years in prison. [Associated Press, 7/6/77; Facts on File World News Digest, 3/31/78]
From the October 3 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:
MATTHEWS: If I'm a supporter of Tom DeLay, I would say two times zero is zero.
SHUSTER: Right. I mean, Tom DeLay last week said that this prosecutor is a partisan fanatic, a rogue district attorney. There's nothing today that will cause him to alter that. But now the prosecutor may get some street credibility from fellow attorneys in Texas who like the charges.
*Honts was a Democrat when convicted of crimes in 1979 and 1984. According to the February 13, 1998, edition of The Austin Chronicle, he changed his party affiliation in 1997 to Republican.