Former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, a Republican who was found guilty in late 2010 of money laundering and conspiracy, will ask a Texas appeals court on Wednesday to overturn his convictions, his lawyer said.
Known as "The Hammer" for his hard-driving style, DeLay was found guilty of conspiring to illegally funnel $190,000 in corporate campaign donations to Republican candidates for the Texas Legislature in the 2002 elections.
DeLay was sentenced in January 2011 to three years in prison but has been free pending the appeal.
Oral arguments for the appeal will take place on Wednesday before a three-judge panel at Texas' 3rd Court of Appeals in Austin. The panel, composed of two Republicans and one Democrat, could take months to render a decision.
DeLay's appeal has been slowed in part because three Republican justices recused themselves and a Democrat was removed after DeLay's lawyer argued that she had made anti-Republican remarks.
DeLay has argued that he couldn't receive a fair trial in heavily Democratic Travis County, but the Travis County district attorney's office said the trial judge fully considered that issue.
"Mr. DeLay received a very thorough and fair trial," Assistant District Attorney Holly Taylor said.
DeLay lawyer Brian Wice said the case involves an unwarranted use of the money-laundering statute to criminalize conduct that wasn't criminal. He argues that the transaction the state said constituted money laundering was conducted with checks - not cash - and therefore did not meet the definition of funds covered by the law at the time.
"Mr. DeLay's conduct didn't come within a time zone of violating the money-laundering statute," Wice said. "To indict, convict and attempt to imprison Tom DeLay on these facts is like handing out speeding tickets at the Indy 500."
"You may not like Tom DeLay," Wice said. "You may think that he's the embodiment of all that was wrong with politics for a generation. But this case isn't about Tom DeLay and it isn't about politics."
Taylor said Wice's argument was an overly technical interpretation of the money-laundering statute that she said "violates notions of common sense."
Judge Pat Priest sentenced DeLay to five years for money laundering and three years for conspiracy but allowed him to serve probation in lieu of the five-year term.
The sentence capped a downward spiral for the flamboyant Texas dealmaker and former owner of a pest control company who had sought to rehabilitate his image by competing on the television show "Dancing with the Stars."
DeLay was elected to the House of Representatives in 1984 and rose eventually to the No. 2 position behind the speaker. He earned a reputation as a master vote-counter and prolific fundraiser.
In 1994, DeLay was part of a "Republican Revolution" that won control of the House for the first time in 40 years.
He resigned from the House in 2006 after it became public that he had ties to Jack Abramoff, a former Republican lobbyist snared in a federal investigation of influence peddling on Capitol Hill. Two of DeLay's ex-aides pleaded guilty to corruption. DeLay denied any wrongdoing.
© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.