Prosecutors push for reinstatement of DeLay convictions
AUSTIN — Prosecutors asked Texas' highest criminal court on Wednesday to reinstate the convictions of former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay in a scheme to influence state elections, saying a lower appeals court ignored key evidence.
Officials are trying to salvage their case against DeLay since the state's 3rd Court of Appeals last year tossed DeLay's 2010 convictions for money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
DeLay, 67, was confident after the hearing before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, telling reporters that a ruling in his favor will show “a little justice may still exist in the Texas judicial system.”
Prosecutors alleged DeLay accepted $190,000 in corporate donations to his Texas-based political action committee, which then funneled those funds to seven Texas House candidates in 2002 through a money swap coordinated with an arm of the Washington-based Republican National Committee. Under state law, corporate money cannot be given directly to political campaigns.
The lower appeals court, however, ruled there was insufficient evidence for a jury to have found DeLay guilty of illegally funneling money to GOP candidates. DeLay had been sentenced to three years in prison, but that was put on hold while his case was appealed.
Prosecutor Holly Taylor of the Travis County District Attorney's Office in Austin told the appeals court that the lower court ignored evidence showing DeLay committed the offenses, including testimony from a former RNC official that showed the money swap was done “essentially to purchase that money for those (seven Texas) candidates.”
Some of the judges on the court questioned how the corporate donations became “dirty money” if many of the officials from companies who donated to DeLay's PAC testified at trial that they gave their money with the intention of not violating state law. One judge questioned if the state's money laundering laws were intended to apply to election code violations.
“It seems like your theory of prosecution has some internal inconsistencies,” said Sharon Keller, the court's presiding judge.
Taylor argued that DeLay's PAC made clear to corporate donors that their money would go directly to help political campaigns and candidates, a violation of state law.
DeLay attorney Brian Wice told the judges that his client's prosecution wasn't about money laundering but about “the criminalization of politics.”
“Are you saying politicians don't break the law?” Judge Elsa Alcala asked Wice.
Wice said there was no evidence at trial that the corporate donors intended to break the law, thus their money did not become the proceeds of criminal activity, an element needed to prove money laundering.
He also argued the money swap was legal as the corporate donations sent to the RNC by DeLay's PAC were exchanged for money from individual donations, which can go to political campaigns in Texas. Wice said the corporate and individual donations at the RNC were kept in separate accounts and were never comingled, thus not resulting in tainted money.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- McCain renews push to have military, not CIA, manage drone strikes
- Presley’s planes will remain at Graceland
- Corinthian Colleges to shut down more than two dozen remaining schools
- Study a surprise: Commercial bees unfazed by pesticides
- Mourners attend Baltimore man’s wake
- Supreme Court leans toward legalizing gay marriage nationally
- Severe storm with tornado roars into north Texas
- High morale linked to longer survival among elderly
- At New York City rally, United States urged to acknowledge slaughter of Armenians as genocide
- Magma chamber spied under Yellowstone volcano
- Tulsa deputy who mistook gun for Taser pleads not guilty, is cleared for vacation