TODAY | January 13, 2011
>> to the former house majority leader, tom delay . he was sentenced to three years in prison on monday for his role in a money laundering scheme. we'll talk to him exclusively in just a moment. first, nbc, norah o'donnell has the latest, good morning to you.
>> reporter: good morning, matt. tom delay has long insisted he did nothing wrong. he called his conviction an abuse of power and miscarriage of justice. tom delay was once one of washington 's most powerful men. now, the man known as "the hammer," is facing the slammer. it's a stunning fall from grace for the former house majority leader and contestant on " dancing with the stars ." in congress, delay was known for his ruthless ability to make his fellow republicans tow the line, blocking renewal of the assault weapons ban in 2004 . in the news again today because of saturday's arizona shooting. on monday, someone tried to shield delay 's face from cameras, as he quickly left a texas courthouse. the former number 2 in the house got frustrated with the handler as he tried to reach his car.
>> please don't hang on. just let me walk.
>> reporter: it was a different delay , who was smiling when he walked into court monday for his sentencing hearing. in november, delay was convicted on money laundering charges. prosecutors said he illegally funneled corporate donations to candidates running for the texas legislature in 2002 . his goal, to get more republicans elected to the texas house , to help with redistricting and send more republicans to congress.
>> this is an abuse of power, miscarriage of justice, and i still maintain that i am innocent. the criminalization of politics undermines our very system.
>> accused to accept responsibility, refused to show any remorse for the offense of which he's been convicted of.
>> reporter: the judge sentenced delay to three years behind bars and 10 years of probation.
>> i feel proud of the work our team did, feel proud of the fact it was a really fair trial .
>> reporter: the d.a. said this was never about politics but delay 's attorney is promising an appeal.
>> if i told you what i thought, i'd get sued. this will not stand.
>> reporter: on monday, delay was immediately taken into custody but the judge granted a request from his attorney he be released on a $10,000 bond pending appeal. prosecutors i talked to said it could mean delay will be free for months, even years, while his appeal makes its way through the texas court system . matt.
>> norah o'donnell.
>>> now, his defense attorney , good morning to both of you.
>> good morning, matt.
>> good morning, matt.
>> congressman, let me start with you, you said on monday to the judge in this sentencing, i can't be remorseful for something i don't think i did. you continue to say these charges were politically motivated saying it is very dangerous to our system, not enough to ruin your reputation, they have to put you in jail, bankrupt you, destroy your family. if you think the district attorney was politically motivated in bringing charges, what about the jury? what was their motivation?
>> first of all, i was tried in the most liberal county in the state of texas , indeed in the united states . getting a jury -- the foreman of the jury was a green peace activist. i'm not criticizing the jury. the point is, that this is a political campaign , has everything to do that the district attorney used six grand juries before he found one just sworn in to indict me on laws that don't exist in texas .
>> do you think you were singled out, congressman delay , for doing something quote-unquote everybody was doing or do you think this law in texas was applied inappropriately in your case?
>> actually, dick ought to answer that question.
>> go ahead.
>> this was a political prosecution. tom delay was prosecuted because he was so successful bringing about redistricting in texas . the prosecution tried this case by making the r jury hate politicians and politics in washington d.c. we went to trial on the very day that people across the country, voters, rebelled against politics. that's the atmosphere, the political atmosphere this prosecution created.
>> i think you made the comment, we got tea partied and it didn't matter if it was tom delay or a turnip, the jury would have convicted. how do you appeal that? what specific grounds or tactic will you use for appeal?
>> sure. that's a fair question. he didn't do anything wrong. the underlying claim was that corporate money was spent on political races in texas and that's not true. the money that came to texas from many the republican party had been collected all across the country from individuals. there was no corporate money. however, the supreme court said corporations have a right to participate in the political process, and that will be part of our appeal also.
>> matt, you can't -- to have money laundering , you have to have proceeds from a criminal activity, like drugs or things like that. they never proved that these proceeds were illegal. they were legally raised corporate funds that were send to washington to be used legally around the country and washington send legally raised funds back to texas . that's not money laundering .
>> this is obviously going to be an appeal process we'll follow, congressman, because it will take some years. i wonder if i could turn subjects on you on some things, gun control , a hot topic in the wake of the shootings in tucson, arizona. do you today feel the same way about gun control that you did when you were an elected official?
>> absolutely. in fact, i understand there's been a bill introduced that has a thousand foot barrier around an elected official so people couldn't bring guns. if i were still in congress, i would welcome and urge those that have license to carry, to come to my town meetings, i'd feel more safe having them there, rather than shutting them out and letting some crazy come in and shoot up the place.
>> so you would have --
>> i had a shooting in my office from one of these crazies, too.
>> you would have no different opinion in terms of the ban on assault weapons you didn't allow to come to a vote in 2004 . i'm not connecting dots that don't exist here, congressman, believe me. in that law would have prevented the new manufacture of things like this extended magazine used by this alleged shooter in this case. he still could have gotten an old one. no new thinking of the philosophical idea of that?
>> absolutely not. guns and people that carry guns are a deterrent. happened right here in texas . we had a situation where people would bump into women in expensive cars and rob them right on the freeway. the day that a concealed carry went into law in the state of texas , that all stopped because the robbers didn't know if that women they were bumping into had a gun or not. this is all stuff we shouldn't be talking about. what we ought to be talking about is the rhetoric in washington , what people ought to be -- how people should be treating each other civilly. gun control and grandstanding doesn't help anybody.
>> former congressman, tom delay and dick degarren. thank you for joining us.
>> thank you.
>> thanks, matt.