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Tom DeLay, former House majority leader, sentenced to three years in prison

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Jack Plunkett/AP

(Read caption) Former House majority leader Tom DeLay enters the courtroom at the Travis County Courthouse in Austin, Texas, on Monday.

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From “Dancing with the Stars” to prison – that’s the fate of former US House majority leader Tom DeLay.

A judge sentenced the former Texas congressman to three years in prison Monday for conspiring to direct laundered corporate money to Texas candidates in 2002. Last November, a jury had also found Mr. DeLay guilty of money laundering, and he accepted 10 years of probation for that in lieu of an additional five years of prison time. In the meantime, his attorneys are appealing the conviction.

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DeLay was found guilty of conspiring in 2002 to use his political action committee to send $190,000 in corporate contributions to the Republican National Committee, which then sent the money to candidates for the Texas House. That year, the Republicans gained control of the state legislature for the first time since Reconstruction. That new majority then redrew Texas congressional districts in a way that favored the Republicans. In the next election, 2004, Republicans defeated five Democratic incumbents in the US House.

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So even as DeLay contemplates prison, he still takes pride in his political achievements; he insists he did nothing wrong. During his political life, DeLay has always been a bold partisan – his nickname was “The Hammer,” for his ability to enforce party discipline – and not one to shy away from the limelight.

In fall of 2009, DeLay competed in the ninth season of “Dancing with the Stars,” but had to drop out due to an injury. If DeLay winds up behind bars, perhaps he will dust off his dancing shoes and give a few lessons.