AUSTIN, Texas (CBS/AP) Former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay has been sentenced to three years in prison Monday for his role in a scheme to illegally funnel corporate money to Texas candidates in 2002.
The sentence comes after a jury in November convicted DeLay on charges of money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering. DeLay was once one of the most powerful men in U.S. politics, ascending to the No. 2 job in the House of Representatives.
Senior Judge Pat Priest sentenced him to the three-year term on the conspiracy charge. He also sentenced him to five years in prison on the money laundering charge but allowed DeLay to accept 10 years of probation instead of more prison time.
The former Houston-area congressman had faced up to life in prison. His attorneys asked for probation.
Senior Judge Pat Priest issued his ruling after a brief sentencing hearing on Monday in which former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert testified on DeLay's behalf.
Hastert, an Illinois Republican who was House speaker from 1999 to 2006, testified that DeLay was not motivated by power but by a need to help others.
DeLay was once one of the most powerful men in U.S. politics, holding the No. 2 job in the House of Representatives.
After a month-long trial in November, a jury determined that he conspired with two associates to use his Texas-based political action committee to send $190,000 in corporate money to an arm of the Washington-based Republican National Committee. The RNC then sent the same amount to seven Texas House candidates. Under Texas law, corporate money can't go directly to political campaigns.
Prosecutors claim the money helped Republicans take control of the Texas House. That enabled the Republican majority to push through a Delay-engineered congressional redistricting plan that sent more Texas Republicans to Congress in 2004, strengthening DeLay's political power.
DeLay contended the charges were politically motivated and the money swap in question was legal. DeLay's attorney, Dick DeGuerin, says the former congressman committed no crime and believes the convictions will be overturned on appeal.