A Texas judge said Tuesday he will try former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay before his two co-defendants in a state criminal case.
Priest's decision means a verdict on DeLay (R-Texas) could come sooner rather than later. The Justice Department last week decided to drop a six-year investigation of DeLay's relationship with convicted GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff without filing charges.
But DeLay still faces conspiracy and money laundering charges in Texas for, authorities allege, participating in a 2002 effort to funnel corporate money illegally to state campaigns.
Two former DeLay aides, Jim Ellis and John Colyandro, face lesser charges of making unlawful political contributions.
DeLay maintains his innocence and told the Dallas Morning News he wants to go after state prosecutors after the trial is complete.
"After this is over," DeLay said during a break in the hearing, "we're going after the constitutionality of a locally elected district attorney that can go after federally elected people in Travis County. There's so much unconstitutional in this whole thing. We're not just going to give up with this trial. We're going to reform the justice system that allows this kind of thing to happen."
The Statesman reported that the judge's comments are a setback for county prosecutors who wanted to try the co-defendants first.