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Tom DeLay’s Conviction Reversed

Former Congressman Tom DeLay got some good news today:

A Texas court overturned the conviction of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, Thursday, formally acquitting him of conspiracy and money laundering charges.

Houston CBS affiliate KHOU reports the Texas Third Court of Appeals said in documents released Thursday morning that the evidence in the case was “legally insufficient to sustain DeLay’s convictions.”

The 66-year-old DeLay was found guilty in November 2010 of money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering for helping illegally funnel corporate money to Texas candidates in 2002.

He was sentenced to three years in prison in January 2011 but his sentence was on hold while his case made its way through the appellate process.

(…)

A jury in Austin had determined that DeLay conspired with two associates, John Colyandro and Jim Ellis, to use his Texas-based political action committee to send a check for $190,000 in corporate money to an arm of the Washington-based Republican National Committee. The RNC then sent the same amount to seven Texas House candidates. Under state law, corporate money cannot be given directly to political campaigns.

Prosecutors said the money helped the GOP take control of the Texas House, enabling them to push through a DeLay-engineered congressional redistricting plan that sent more Republicans to Congress in 2004, strengthening his political power.

But in a 22-page opinion, the appeals court said prosecutors “failed in its burden to prove that the funds that were delivered to the seven candidates were ever tainted.”

The case could be appealed to the Texas Criminal Court Of Appeals, the highest Court in Texas for criminal cases, but it seems likely that DeLay would be successful there as well.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. legion says:

    The case could be appealed to the Texas Criminal Court Of Appeals, the highest Court in Texas for criminal cases, but it seems likely that DeLay would be successful there as well.

    As long as DeLay is tried in Texas by Texans, he’ll be successful.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 4

  2. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    I don’t care much for DeLay, but the history against him here stinks of vindictive prosecutor. Abd the prosecutor has a record of that.

    First attempt: thrown out by a Democratic judge.

    Second attempt: grand jury refused to indict.

    Third attempt: wrongly convicted — the law only covered funds obtained illegally, and the money was voluntary political donations. That’s the one that was overturned this time.

    Ronnie Earle needs to be driven out of office — at the very least.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 4

  3. Tony W says:

    Whew! My faith in Texas Justice is renewed! If a white guy can’t get away with a little money laundering in the great state of Texas, then somebody didn’t grease the right palms.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 5

  4. Paul L. says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:
    Ronnie Earle is not in office anymore.
    He just goes to Nutroots Nation for the Ronnie Earle, Joseph W. Bottini, James A. Goeke and Mike Nifong’s panel on manufacturing and hiding evidence for progressive witch hunts.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  5. wr says:

    Since our political elite has decided that no member of the political or financial elite should ever be held responsible for anything they do, we really must all applaud this decision. After all, we must look forward, not backwards, and if we allow DeLay’s conviction to stand we might send a chilling effect to those others who wish to use campaign contributions to corrupt our system.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 4

  6. gVOR08 says:

    Didn’t it used to be Republicans who got all upset about people getting off on “technicalities”?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 3

  7. @legion:

    Umm, he was convicted by a Texas jury. There seems to be a flaw in your logic.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  8. Rick Almeida says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Yeah, but it was a jury of “Progressives”, which all Americans know don’t count.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 3

  9. legion says:

    @Doug Mataconis: On pretty overwhelming evidence, too. Whereupon a Texas judge then allowed him to stay free for the next 2+ years during the appeal, until a panel of Texas judges could get together and declare all of that evidence “insufficient”, without having to bother with buying off convincing a jury. I think my point still stands.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 3

  10. mattbernius says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Umm, he was convicted by a Texas jury. There seems to be a flaw in your logic.

    Which is my big stumbling block. I understand if the conviction was overturned on procedural grounds (i.e. not releasing evidence) or some sort of statutory violation. I’m just surprised to see a jury’s finding of fact being overturned by a Judicial panel’s split decision (2/1) finding of fact.

    That seems problematic to me. Just think of the reverse: for example I can only imagine the gnashing of teeth if an Appeals Court in Florida was to convict Mr. Zimmerman finding that there was sufficient evidence to prove he killed Martin.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2

  11. Gavrilo says:

    @mattbernius:

    That seems problematic to me. Just think of the reverse: for example I can only imagine the gnashing of teeth if an Appeals Court in Florida was to convict Mr. Zimmerman finding that there was sufficient evidence to prove he killed Martin.

    The goverment can’t appeal a jury aquittal. That would constitute double jeopardy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  12. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    The law in question here covered only money gained illegally.

    The money in question here was from voluntary political contributions.

    What’s the opposite term for “jury nullification,” when the jury patently ignores the law and votes to convict anyway?

    Anyway, it’s all pretty much moot. The whole intention wasn’t to convict DeLay, but to get him out of office. Mission Accomplished.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  13. mattbernius says:

    @Gavrilo:

    The goverment can’t appeal a jury aquittal. That would constitute double jeopardy.

    Understood. You seem to have missed the substance of my allegorical point.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  14. al-Ameda says:

    A Texas court overturned the conviction of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, Thursday, formally acquitting him of conspiracy and money laundering charges.

    Houston CBS affiliate KHOU reports the Texas Third Court of Appeals said in documents released Thursday morning that the evidence in the case was “legally insufficient to sustain DeLay’s convictions.”

    So, is this a case of ‘Court Nullification’?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  15. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @al-Ameda: So, is this a case of ‘Court Nullification’?

    (shrug) It happens. Sometimes, it’s even the right thing.

    Not a great general principle, but occasionally justified.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

  16. wr says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: “Not a great general principle, but occasionally justified. ”

    Yup. When a member of your team is arrested, tried and convicted. Can’t let one of your guys be punished just because he’s a sleazy crook, right?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  17. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @wr: I deeply regret every single moment I ever thought you capable of reasonable thought and discussion.

    DeLay’s conviction overturned on appeal, George Zimmerman acquitted by a jury, but they’re still sleazy and guilty and awful. And in DeLay’s case, you can’t even articulate on the details of the case.

    DeLay’s conviction was obviously voted for by a jury of YOUR peers — complete idiots.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  18. @mattbernius: Under guarantees to a jury trial protected by the 6th amendment it would be categorically unconstitutional for a judge to direct a guilty of verdict in a criminal case, but that isn’t a problem apparently for the statist authoritarians and liberal loonies who frequent this blog.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3

  19. Tyrell says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: I did not care for DeLay either.
    What happened here is that he probably made someone mad, or bucked the “system”. This has happened to numerous members of Congress over the last several years: Wright, Hayes, Mills, Rostenkowski, and some others who were very powerful and had a lot of control over what legislation got through the committees. When they talked, other members listened. They either decided to oppose some sort of legislation or they started snooping where they should not have. Then powerful people behind all of this cook up some sort of scandal with planted, faked “evidence” and there you have it, they are suddenly out. These are people who are not to be crossed or opposed. I am not implying that this has happened in every case when a member of Congress is tried or resigns in the wake of some scandal. It has happened in many cases, though. Enough to show that Washington is controlled.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  20. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Let’s Be Free:

    but that isn’t a problem apparently for the statist authoritarians

    I would bet dollars to donuts that you have no problem with the death penalty.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  21. al-Ameda says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    George Zimmerman acquitted by a jury, but they’re still sleazy and guilty and awful.

    To be fair, Zimmerman had the benefit of the ‘OJ Jury’, whose National Tour continues.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  22. Grewgills says:

    Look for more corporate money to flow indirectly into Texas elections through the gaping loophole created by those two Texas judges. On the bright side I don’t know that Texas jerrymandering could be any worse than it currently is.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  23. grumpy realist says:

    Doug, can you weight in on this? Given that it was an appeals decision 2-1 it looks like this is a case of judges and juries arguing about how foggy things were. That’s the problem with crimes like “conspiracy.” Did the appeals court throw out the findings of fact? If so, that’s pretty unusual.

    And actually, this is a case where I think the usual sniping from the peanut gallery is pretty hopeless. Let’s not accuse the judges of malfeasance–there’s no evidence of that just because the appeals went the way it did.

    (e.g. the CLS Bank case. 10 judges, 5 decisions. There’s a reason why the USPTO just shrugged its shoulders and said “we’re not going to modify our examination procedures yet.”)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  24. bill says:

    i barely remember that case and i live in Texas- it was a smear campaign for the most part. if it went to scotus they’d toss it too.

    @Grewgills: a nice thing about Texas is that it continually grows and gains congressional seats so yes, districts have to be added (or “gerrymandered”- depending on who gets to make them). you’re not going to make everyone happy when you have to cut and splice voting districts to conform.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0