FBI documents related to the criminal investigation of former Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay may not be withheld unconditionally from the public, a federal appeals court in Washington ruled, The Hill
The appeals court returned the case to the lower court and told the Justice Department that it could still present additional reasons why the material should be kept confidential, the publication said.
The Justice Department decided not to pursue a case against DeLay in connection with the corruption investigation of lobbyist Jack Abramoff. The lobbyist and two DeLay aides were convicted of conspiracy. The department said releasing the material would infringe on the privacy of DeLay, prospective witnesses, and informants, and could compromise the FBI's investigatory techniques, Politico
The three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled against the Justice Department for not providing the materials demanded under the Freedom of Information Act by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. A federal district judge had sided with the Justice Department.
Melanie Sloan, executive director of CREW, said that the decision was a "big win for anyone who believes that powerful people should not be shielded from scrutiny when they flagrantly violate the law," according to The Hill.
The files "could shed light on how the FBI and DOJ handle the investigation and prosecution of crimes that undermine the very foundation of our government," the appellate court said, and could explain "whether the government had the evidence but nevertheless pulled its punches."
A state appeals court in Texas overturned Delay's conviction on money laundering charges in 2013, according to The New York Times.
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