Judge Throws Out Tom Delay Conspiracy Charges

A judge threw out conspiracy charges against ousted House Majority Leader Tom Delay, a major blow to the prosecution team.

Interestingly, the Washington Post headline to the AP story emphasizes the negative:

Judge Upholds Some Charges Against DeLay

Money laundering charges against Republican Rep. Tom DeLay were upheld Monday, dashing his hopes for reclaiming his post as House majority leader, but the judge dismissed charges related to any conspiracy to violate Texas’ election code. Judge Pat Priest, who is presiding over the case against the Texas Republican, ruled on several motions filed by prosecutors and DeLay’s attorneys last month.

DeLay was required under House rules to relinquish the leadership post he had held since early 2003 when he was indicted in September in a finance scheme centered on the 2002 Texas House races. Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri became majority leader.

At a hearing Nov. 22, DeLay’s lawyers asked for a quick decision on their request for dismissal of all charges, and, if the ruling went against DeLay, a prompt trial, in hopes that he could regain his leadership post by the time Congress reconvenes in January. The House is expected to return late next month. But the judge said at the time that it was unlikely the case would go to trial before the first of the year.

In asking that the case be thrown out, DeLay lawyer Dick DeGuerin argued that one of the charges _ conspiracy to violate the Texas election code _ did not even take effect until September 2003, a year after the alleged offenses occurred. Priest dismissed that charge, citing those grounds.

The YahooNews headline on the AP story is along the same lines: DeLay’s Money Laundering Charges Upheld

Ditto the New York Times: Judge Upholds Some Charges Against Delay

USA Today, also carrying the AP wire copy, uses a more appropriate headline: Judge drops conspiracy charges against DeLay.

CNN is in Breaking News mode but gets the order right, at least: “Judge tosses conspiracy charges against ex-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, but allows money-laundering charges, according to AP.”

This isn’t pedantry or partisanship on my part. Delay is in serious trouble and, even if he is ultimately acquitted on these charges, there is plenty of evidence that he played as close to the limits of legality as possible, almost certainly crossing the line of proper ethical conduct. Regardless, however, the news here is Delay’s the conspiracy charges being dropped, not other charges remaining.

News, as the name implies, is about things that are different. An hour ago, Delay faced two serious charges; he now faces one. Considering that he faced the remaining charge when the day began, the new thing is the charge he no longer faces.

FILED UNDER: Congress, Law and the Courts, Media, ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Anderson says:

    Okay, JJ, but if we bought into the spin that ALL the charges were utterly bogus, abominations of justice, etc., etc., then wouldn’t it be news that some WEREN’T dropped?

    And the “utterly bogus” spin has been DeLay’s of course.

    So to DeLay himself, the remarkable thing is that one charge wasn’t dropped, not that one was.

    (Man, I have got to get back to my brief, rather than wasting this argumentative vigor on the Web.)

  2. James Joyner says:

    Not my spin, at least.

    I operate on the theoretical premise–granting that it is seldom observed in practice–that reporters are supposed to present the truth as best as their knowledge of the facts allows. The headline choices were spin. Similarly, the omission of the word “Conspiracy” in this post’s headline would rightly be decried by the other side, as “Judge Throws Out Tom Delay Charges” would be true but highly misleading.

  3. McGehee says:

    …if we bought into the spin that ALL the charges were utterly bogus, abominations of justice, etc., etc., then wouldn’t it be news that some WEREN’T dropped?

    Who’s “we,” Anderson? Do you honestly expect us to believe the headline writers at the New York Times, of all people, “bought into the spin that ALL the charges were utterly bogus, abominations of justice, etc., etc.”?

    If so, I hope you have a doctor’s prescription for whatever you’re smoking.

  4. Herb says:

    When this farse is all said and done, DeLay will be acquitted and that left wing prosecutor will end up with egg on his face. The problem with our system is that prosecutors can charge anyone with anything at any time they want and suffer no reprocussions from such milliscous prosecutions. The prosecutor should be prosecuted for “milliscous prosceution” in this case.

    As for Anderson’s comment. Once again Anderson has given us the the wisdom of his superior intelligence and no one should dispute his intelligence. I bet that he is known as “The Know It All” in his family. However, it is good to know that Anderson blesses us with his wits of wisdom now and then, even though he often provides us with his “knowledge of Nothing” all of the time.

  5. Bob says:

    I don’t see the problem. Delay has been seeking to have the charges dropped. They were not. He still could go to prison for life!

  6. Bob says:

    “When this farse is all said and done, DeLay will be acquitted and that left wing prosecutor will end up with egg on his face. The problem with our system is that prosecutors can charge anyone with anything at any time they want and suffer no reprocussions from such milliscous prosecutions. The prosecutor should be prosecuted for “milliscous prosceution” in this case.”

    Kind of like what BushCo is doing right now?

  7. Bob says:

    Oh wait…my mistake. They don’t even bother to charge their prisoners…

  8. Elmo says:

    Was there any doubt?

    Signed, No Partisan.

  9. Jack says:

    Please, the first thing I looked at were the headings without caring what the story was about. You can do the same by going to google news. That’s how I got to your website. It’s funny that CNN has the right “heading.” Maybe they are afraid that they will be labeled by loons like you.

  10. Pete Trueday says:

    I operate on the theoretical premise—granting that it is seldom observed in practice—that reporters are supposed to present the truth as best as their knowledge of the facts allows.

    Joyner, with apologists like you, it makes one wonder why the government spends so much to buy off reporters!

    You’re doing a heckuva job!

  11. Bob says:

    Why aren’t you carrying the liberal banning of Christmas like Faux News? That is the funniest thing ever…

  12. Jack says:

    I prefer the “F-Word News Channel.”

  13. Herb says:

    Bob:

    I gather by your comment that you fully support the terrorists that are in jail and would like to see them set free to Kill innocent US Citizens.

    I also gather that you support Saddam.

  14. john says:

    Sorry, so ridiculous, anyone who doesn’t believe that Delay is part of the big K Street problem with American politics is just fooling themselves. Some have said that power corrupts…but it’s actually money that corrupts and Delay and company are the prime example of what’s wrong in this country. This is so obvious to even the most casual observer that these guys, Delay, Abramoff etc are just selling out America for their own benifit. Please, don’t spend your time and effort supporting a bunch of crooks.

  15. Jack Ehrlich says:

    Hey John, where were you when Bill was selling sleep time in the Lincoln bedroom? Or selling Presidential pardons? Ot selling justice down the river, for instance when instead of insisting the Saudis allow the FBI to investigate the Hobart Towers bombing, asking for donations to the Clinton library? Funny how you on the left are so quick to forget what your side not only is capable of, but is commonly practiced.

  16. Fersboo says:

    I don’t get it JJ. You said:

    Delay is in serious trouble and, even if he is ultimately acquitted on these charges, there is plenty of evidence that he played as close to the limits of legality as possible, almost certainly crossing the line of proper ethical conduct.

    How is going up to the limit of legality equate to DeLay being in serious trouble? For an ethical lapse? For a law that wasn’t on the books when the ‘alleged crime’ occurred?

    Someday, like in 10 years or so, I would like someone to explain to me the moderates’ dislike of DeLay. I understand the liberals dislike, but have no clue why everyone else has a problem. It isn’t like he praised a segregationist’s career at a birthday party or something.

  17. James Joyner says:

    Fersboo: Serious political trouble, not legal trouble.

    I don’t consider myself a “moderate.” I’m not a Delay fan because I think he uses sleazy tactics, not because of his stands on particular issues. He’s also not adverse to lining his pockets by virtue of his high political office.

    See Slate’s summary, “The Tom DeLay Scandals” for one reasoned take.

  18. Kent says:

    there is plenty of evidence that he played as close to the limits of legality as possible, almost certainly crossing the line of proper ethical conduct.

    It seems to me that “ethical” is not a meaningful adjective to use in connection with our convoluted campaign financing laws. I can’t see how anything more restrictive than a full disclosure, no foreign contributions rule is consistent with the First Amendment — whatever SCOTUS may think.

    I doubt whether Delay had any such high motives, but it could be argued that pushing the ragged limits of an unwise and unconstitutional law is perfectly ethical.

  19. James Joyner says:

    Kent: Agreed on campaign finance stuff.

    The evidence certainly seems to go beyond that, including to influence peddling and personal financial gain for himself and his wife.