- Marionville mayor ‘kind of agreed’ with Kansas City shooter’s views
- Rev. Al Sharpton’s Easter message: Politically ‘crucified’ Obama has risen again
- Supreme Court to weigh challenge to ban on campaign lies
- UNICEF launches ‘Mr. Poo’ mascot in India to curb public defecation
- Teen taking selfie by train: ‘Wow, that guy just kicked me in the head’
- Goodbye, Afghanistan — hello, Africa: Air Force to shift as U.S. exits Middle East
- Iran mulls ban on vasectomies, decrease on abortions to bolster population
- CNN op-ed claims right-wingers ‘more deadly than jihadists’
- Classes resume at high school rocked by stabbings
- ABC News accuses Center for Public Integrity of stealing Pulitzer-winning work
DeLay’s political-funds funneling appealed as legal
AUSTIN, Texas — An attorney for former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay told an appeals court Wednesday that the onetime GOP heavyweight’s efforts to influence Texas elections may have been distasteful but weren’t illegal.
DeLay, 65, was found guilty in November 2010 of money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering. He was sentenced to three years in prison, but that was put on hold while his case was appealed.
A prosecutor with the Travis County district attorney’s office told the 3rd Court of Appeals on Wednesday that the former Houston-area congressman did violate Texas law when his political action committee funneled corporate donations to Texas candidates in 2002. Under state law, corporate money cannot be given directly to political campaigns.
Attorneys for both sides spent about an hour presenting their arguments to a three-judge panel of the appeals court. The court will issue a ruling at a later date. DeLay, who once held the No. 2 job in the House of Representatives, did not attend the hearing.
The road to the appeals court has been long and filled with various interruptions, including some of the appeals court justices recusing themselves. Also, DeLay successfully had a judge on the panel removed because of anti-Republican comments she made.
DeLay has maintained his prosecution was politically motivated by Ronnie Earle, the now-retired Democratic Travis County district attorney in Austin.
On Wednesday, the crux of DeLay’s argument rested on a claim that he did not engage in money laundering because state law didn’t apply to funds to which the former congressman was tied since they were in the form of a check.
Jurors in Austin determined DeLay conspired with two associates, John Colyandro and Jim Ellis, to use his Texas-based political action committee to funnel a check for $190,000 in corporate money through an arm of the Washington-based Republican National Committee. The RNC then sent the same amount to seven Texas House candidates.
Prosecutors claim that the money helped the GOP take control of the Texas House, enabling the party to push through a DeLay-engineered congressional redistricting plan that sent more Republicans to Congress in 2004, strengthening his political power.
Brian Wice, DeLay’s appeals attorney, told the judges that in 2002, the state’s money laundering law did not include checks in its definition of funds. Mr. Wice said if the Texas Legislature had intended to have checks included in the statute it would have done so when it first passed the law in 1993. The law was amended in 2005 to include checks.
“Certainly while on some level [DeLay’s actions] were distasteful to some people, it wasn’t a crime,” he said.
In 2008, a different panel of the same appeals court ruled in a challenge that was brought forth by Colyandro and Ellis that checks were not covered by the money laundering statute prior to 2005. But the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals later overruled that decision, saying the lower court should not have addressed the issue.
Prosecutor Holly Taylor said the judges shouldn’t consider such a narrow interpretation of the law when making their decision and that checks were always meant to be considered under the statute.
“Crimes were being prosecuted in money laundering by people using checks,” Ms. Taylor said in reference to other cases that have undergone review in other appeals courts across the state. “Our penal statute should not be strictly construed.”
TWT Video Picks
By returning to Christian roots, the nation can achieve greatness once again
- 'Culture of intimidation' seen in Nevada ranch standoff
- GOP writes legislation to deny Attorney General Eric Holder his salary
- Nevada Bundy ranch standoff could leave dirt on Harry Reid reputation
- U.S. Navy to turn seawater into jet fuel
- Rand and Ron Paul ride to the rescue for Bundy in Nevada standoff with feds
- UNICEF launches 'Mr. Poo' mascot in India to curb public defecation
- Atheists rush to stage Easter display: 'Jesus Christ is a myth'
- Fuel-filled wings, ability to swarm: Pentagon offers glimpse at future of drone fleet
- Secret U.S. assessments show Afghanistan not ready to govern on own
- CARSON: Recovering Tocqueville's vision of American exceptionalism
Celebrity deaths in 2014
Top 10 handguns in the U.S.