Court Tosses Conviction of Ex-House Leader DeLay

Image: Court Tosses Conviction of Ex-House Leader DeLay

Thursday, 19 Sep 2013 12:19 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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A Texas appeals court has overturned the 2010 campaign money laundering conviction of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, saying the evidence in the case "was legally insufficient" to sustain his convictions.

All judgments against the former Republican lawmaker, 66, were reversed in the 2-1 decision by the 3rd Court of Appeals in Austin on Thursday and he was formally acquitted of all crimes, reports KHOU 11 News in Houston.

"Because we conclude that the evidence was legally insufficient to sustain DeLay's convictions, we reverse the judgments of the trial court and render judgments of acquittal. The fundamental problem with the state's case was its failure to prove proceeds of criminal activity," Justice Melissa Goodwin stated in the majority opinion with Justice David Gaultney concurring.

Read It: Court Opinion Overturning Tom DeLay's Conviction


Chief Justice J. Woodfin Jones dissented, however, saying he disagreed that there was insufficient evidence to try and convict the former congressman, who was first elected to the House in 1984.

Craig McDonald, executive director of Texas for Public Justice, which had filed the elections complaint that led to DeLay's indictment, complained to The Houston Chronicle that the two Republican judges who acquitted the ex-lawmaker were influenced by politics.

"[DeLay] was wrong on the law and wrong on the facts, but politics bailed him out," said McDonald.

McDonald said he hopes the Travis County district attorney in Austin would appeal the acquittal to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

DeLay was convicted in 2010 and sentenced to three years on charges of money laundering, stemming from accusations that in 2002 he improperly steered $190,000 in corporate campaign donations to Republican candidates for the Texas legislature. He remained free on probation, though, pending the outcome of his appeal.

By the time he was convicted, DeLay had already resigned as House majority leader and had left Congress. He resigned that position in September 2005, after a Texas grand jury initially indicted him on conspiracy charges stemming from a campaign finance investigation. A month later, DeLay was also indicted on money laundering charges. But by the end of 2005, a Texas judge had dismissed the conspiracy complaint.

The court proceedings in Delay's case were delayed a number of times over the years. At one point a number of judges recused themselves in the case because of political ties and at least one member of an appeals panel was removed for making anti-Republican comments.

Although DeLay's conviction was overturned, some of his GOP associates who were charged along with him weren't so lucky.

John Colyandro, who ran a group called Texans for a Republican Majority, was fined $8,000 in 2012 after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge of accepting illegal political contributions. Jim Ellis, a DeLay staff member at the time, also pleaded guilty to a felony charge of making an illegal campaign contribution. He was sentenced to four years of probation and fined $10,000.

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