Texas Court Overturns Conviction of ex-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay

Texas Court Overturns Conviction of ex-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay

The 2010 conviction of ex-House majority leader, Tom DeLay, has been overturned by a Texas Appeals Court. A conviction that came from a 2002 election where DeLay was accused of being part of efforts to channel illegal funds into campaigns as part of a scheme to influence Texas elections.  He was found guilty of conspiracy to commit money laundering as well as money laundering, and was sentenced to three years in prison. He was able to suspend serving his sentence while in the appeals process.

DeLay’s conviction was the result of questionable disbursement of campaign funds, some $190,000 from various corporations, by having the corporations pay directly to the Republican National Committee. The committee then cut checks directly to GOP electoral candidates in the Texas House to help them get elected.

Statements released from the court indicated that the conviction was overturned due to evidence that was “legally insufficient to sustain DeLay’s convictions.”

The court also stated, in its majority opinion, that, “the evidence shows that the defendants were attempting to comply with the election code limitations on corporate contributions.”

Ex-House majority leader Tom DeLay is pleased with the ruling that overturns his conviction. He claims that the original conviction was rooted in a political conspiracy accusing him of participating in a scheme to influence Texas elections.  DeLay has maintained during the entire ordeal that he was being wrongly convicted, citing that the political climate of the county he was tried in was instrumental in his conviction.

It has also been declared that his successes as a powerful Republican in Texas led to his conviction. The results of the campaign efforts allowed Republicans to secure the majority in the Texas legislature, giving the party leverage in redistricting efforts that helped give Republicans a bigger presence in the United States Congress. DeLay’s lawyer, Dick DeGuerin, said, “Tom DeLay was prosecuted because he was so successful in bringing about redistricting in Texas.”

According to the majority opinion of the Texas Appeals Court where his appeal was heard, the evidence simply doesn’t support major elements of the conviction, specifically, the conspiracy to commit money laundering.  Transactional evidence suggests that campaign funds were not handled in a way that is a-typical of contemporaries in both political parties and, at the very least, DeLay was under the assumption that these financial maneuverings were legal.

The Texas Penal code states that the act of money laundering is only committed “if the person knowingly…conducts, supervises, or facilitates a transaction involving the proceeds of criminal activity.”

The majority opinion further outlines that corporate funds can be used by political parties as long as they are not used to directly fund specific candidates.  Although there were no specifications on the contributions, it could be established that the funds were kept in a separate account from the one used to draw the candidate checks from.  Corporate funds are legally allowed to be used in ways that free up individually donated funds for campaign costs.

The legality of these types of donations and fund allocations, along with the fact that representatives for the corporation in question consistently testified that the intent of their donations were lawful, meant that the proof of knowledgeable of criminal activity was not adequately established.

Since it was not clearly established that ex-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay participated knowingly in a scheme to influence elections in Texas, the appeals court ruled 2-1 to overturn his conviction, freeing him of prison time or further prosecution.

Written by: Vanessa Blanchard

Texas Court of Appeals Ruling

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