The former US House majority leader Tom DeLay, who with the nickname "The Hammer" has seen his share of political battles, now faces the toughest fight of his life: staying out of prison.
The former Houston-area Republican congressman was back in court yesterday for the sentencing phase of his trial. He was convicted on 24 November on charges of money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering in a scheme to illegally funnel corporate money to Texas candidates in 2002.
Unlike DeLay's trial, which lasted nearly a month, the sentencing hearing is expected to take about two days. DeLay has chosen Senior Judge Pat Priest to sentence him. Judge Priest says he is likely to make a quick decision after prosecutors and defence attorneys finish presenting witnesses.
While he faces up to life in prison on the money laundering charge and up to 20 years on the conspiracy charge, DeLay is also eligible for probation. "Of course we will ask the judge to grant probation," said Dick DeGuerin, DeLay's lead attorney. "This is not a matter of economic loss, not a matter of anyone being injured or of any evil intent."
Up to nine witnesses are expected to testify on DeLay's behalf, including the former House speaker Dennis Hastert and others who worked with him.