AUSTIN, Texas — A jury was chosen Tuesday in the trial of former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, a once powerful but polarizing politician accused of illegally financing Texas GOP legislative races in 2002.
The panel of six men and six women, along with two alternates, was selected after attorneys spent more than eight hours quizzing potential jurors about whether their political beliefs could interfere in their ability to make an impartial decision. Most said it wouldn't affect them.
Jurors were scheduled to return to court Monday, on the eve of Election Day, to hear opening statements in a trial expected to last three weeks.
DeLay, who has long denied wrongdoing, has been pressing for a trial since he was indicted five years ago, but his case was slowed by appeals of pretrial rulings. The 63-year-old former congressman held the powerful post of House majority leader during part of former President George W. Bush's administration.
"We're ready," DeLay, standing next to his wife, Christine, said after the jury was chosen.
He is charged with money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering. He and two associates — Jim Ellis and John Colyandro — are accused of taking $190,000 in corporate money collected by a state political action committee that DeLay started and illegally funneling it through the Republican National Committee in Washington to help elect GOP state legislative candidates in 2002.
Under Texas law, corporate money cannot be directly used for political campaigns.
In 2002, the GOP won a majority in the Texas House of Representatives for the first time since the Civil War era. That majority helped Republicans push through a congressional redistricting plan engineered by DeLay that sent more Texas Republicans to Congress in 2004.
DeLay's attorneys tried to get the trial moved out of Austin, fearing he could not get a fair trial in the most Democratic city in one of the most Republican states.
DeLay has said the charges were politically motivated.