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Henry Cuellar’s corruption trial delayed until after election

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, at a Get Out the Vote rally in San Antonio on May 4, 2022.
Chris Stokes
Texas Tribune
U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, at a Get Out the Vote rally in San Antonio on May 4, 2022.

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar’s corruption trial will take place next year after Election Day, according to a court order Friday.

The Laredo Democrat was indicted last month on charges of bribery, money laundering and illegally working on behalf of the Azerbaijani government. His trial was scheduled to kick off in July, but now will not begin until spring 2025 with an interim pretrial conference in December. Jury selection is scheduled to begin March 31, 2025.

Both federal prosecutors and Cuellar’s team asked to delay the trial. Judge Lee Rosenthal, a seasoned judge appointed by President George H.W. Bush, approved their request. The trial will take place in federal court in Houston.

Federal prosecutors allege Cuellar laundered bribes from the Azerbaijani government and a Mexican bank. In exchange, he allegedly advocated legislation the bank and Azerbaijani government supported. That included legislation related to Azerbaijan’s territorial dispute with neighboring Armenia.

Cuellar denies the allegations. He contends his behavior was consistent with that of other members of Congress and that he will continue running for reelection this year.

Cuellar represents Texas’ 28th Congressional District. The district was a competitive battle ground last cycle with Republicans pouring millions of dollars to unseat Cuellar, who has represented the district since 2005. Cuellar also fended off a progressive challenger, immigration attorney Jessica Cisneros, last cycle in a nationally watched primary.

Cuellar vanquished his challengers in 2022, beating Republican Cassy Garcia by over 13 points. National Republicansdeclined to mount a serious challenge against him this year, focusing their attention on more competitive South Texas races.

But after the indictment, independent election raters deemed the race more competitive. The National Republican Congressional Committee added Cuellar to its list of targets after the Republican primary runoff in May gave them a candidate: former Navy commander Jay Furman.