Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Ronnie Earle: DeLay Evidence Missing Ronnie Earle: DeLay Evidence Missing

Apparently, Ronnie Earle's second indictment of Tom DeLay, et al. depends on a certain Excel spreadsheet of donors, which is, unfortunately for Earle, not available. As most probably know by now, this indictment was an 11th hour affair after Earle's previous indictment turned out to have charged a crime that wasn't a crime at the time the alleged conduct occurred. And that supposedly was from the third grand jury that Earle had utilized for this. The fourth grand jury refused to bring changes, leaving a final, fifth, grand jury to do the honors. Not surprisingly, DeLay, et al., have cried foul, or, more accurately, prosectorial misconduct.

The second indictment has its own problems. It appears to be charging DeLay et al. with stuff that is again not a crime, plus seems to ignore that it is brought in the wrong venue - the Texas election laws would seem to require that DeLay be tried in his home county, and not in Ronnie Earle's ultra-liberal Travis county. Needless to say, the DA in DeLay's home county wouln't think of charging their home town hero.

But what is more interesting to me is that the second indictment is based on a document that is not in the possession of the Earle's office. Instead, they have a supposed predecessor document that doesn't show the same information as charged. Different names, amounts, and totals. And the document is unsigned.

From an attorney's point of view (who doesn't try criminal cases), I see a major proof problem here. In order to get a document introduced into court, a foundation must be built for it. The obvious two objections to the document they do have are irrelevant and hearsay. The typical way that an attorney would overcome a hearsay objection is to show that the document is an admission of a party to the suit. But that is unlikely to work here, as authorship of that document appears to be unknown, or at least, likely unprovable.

That said, one thing that I have not seen discussed is that the document they do have is apparently a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. What must be remembered about Microsoft Office documents is that they almost invariably contain "metadata" embedded within. This metadata typically includes a revision history for the document, including who created the document and who modified it, and when. There are readily available tools for viewing metadata embedded in Microsoft Office documents, and, theoretically, might be utilized here to trace who created and modified that spreadsheet. It is hard to believe that Earle's office won't be able to figure this out, given all the techies there in Austin. We shall see.

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