Tom DeLay, the man who once easily held the title Most Hated Republican in his clawed hands, will finally have his hearing over campaign-finance money-laundering charges Wednesday before a three-judge panel in Austin.
It's been a long road for the former congressman from Sugar Land -- some of the indictments go back seven years -- and he's picked as his attorney Houston's Brian Wice.
Which no doubt surprised the somewhat more liberal Wice, until he looked at it through the prism of "Well, of course DeLay would want the best lawyer available," and then it made perfect sense to him.
We've asked Wice to assess the experience of learning to appreciate the DeLay magic. We've let him do the talking, no matter how difficult it was to not write "for burning" after Item Number One in Wice's list of "The Top Five Things I Never Knew About Tom DeLay."
Take it way, Wice:
I first met Tom DeLay in 2008, two years before he hired me to appeal his convictions for money laundering and conspiracy. Make no mistake -- I was not a fan.
There were times when I would see Tom on TV and I pondered how much a new big-screen TV would set me back if I acted on my primeval urge to throw a brick through the screen.
One day I walked into Total Video, a broadcast facility across the tracks and around the corner from the Harris County Jail in the north end of downtown, where I would do live shots on national TV in my other gig as a legal analyst. (I'm pretty sure the Houston Press actually recognized my talent as a legal talking head back in the day.) I was there to do a live shot on MSNBC, a network I used to be on more than Leave It to Beaver reruns, before it became "The Place for Politics."
Helen, everyone's kindly grandmother, who runs the place, was as excited as a school girl at a Justin Bieber concert that day. "We have somebody special in the green room tonight," she sputtered. This is gonna be cool, I thought to myself. Maybe it's a professional athlete or even a porn star selling a new book. "Who is it?" I asked. She waited a beat for effect and then blurted out, "Tom DeLay!" I felt as deflated as Hugh Hefner when he misplaces his Viagra. "Tom DeLay?" I scornfully replied, "I guess Satan was already booked to do Nancy Grace." "You'll really like him," she said sweetly. As I turned and walked away, muttered, "Uh, actually, no, I won't."
Moments later, I walked into the green room, determined to remember my late mom's words to at least act like a mensch. And sure enough, Helen was right. In the words of the Renee Zellweger character in Jerry Maguire, Tom had me at hello. I know what you're thinking: he's a politician, that's what they do. Perhaps. But I was able to suspend disbelief and I wound up as a fan.
Two years later when I met him in the waiting room at Dick DeGuerin's office, where Dick, who had tried Tom's case, had arranged for us to meet, Tom remembered exactly who I was and what we talked about in the green room. He asked how my dad in Connecticut was, told me how much he enjoyed seeing me on Channel 2 (where of course, local news comes first), and said that he and his people were impressed with my resume.
In the almost two years that I have been his lawyer, most of his political views still make me want to do to him what Brian Cushing does to an opposing quarterback when his blind-side offensive tackle misses a block. I've had to deal with my friends, colleagues and the folks at the Press who go out of their way to bust my chops about how I could represent a slappy who should have gotten more time in prison, not so much for being the face of political divisiveness for a generation, but for looking like a putz on Dancing With the Stars. It's simple. First, I love the guy. If the monumental cadre of DeLay haters out there could sit across from him and have a drink or a cup of coffee, they'd have an entirely different take. And second, he got royally schtupped at his trial and faces three years in a cage for conduct that was simply not a crime and that the Democrats had been doing since the Summer of '42.
To go to one of my ever-present sports analogies, I know we're a 15-seed up against a number-2 at the Big Dance on Wednesday when I argue his appeal in the Austin Court of Appeals. But if and when we shock the world, win the appeal, and Tom is a free man, I've got the Gatorade bucket ready to pour on his perfectly coiffed hair. Trust me, it will be worth the price of admission.
THE TOP FIVE THINGS I NEVER KNEW ABOUT TOM DELAY
1. Carries a pocket-size copy of the U.S. Constitution with him at all times.
2. Has Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin "Bebe" Netanyahu's cell phone number.
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3. Is infinitely funnier than all of his haters would ever think.
4. Assisted a family of Jewish refuse-niks in escaping from Russia.
5. If any harm ever befalls Newt Gingrich, he better have an alibi.