Former U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay’s political money laundering conviction was overturned by the state’s 3rd Court of Appeals on Thursday.
“Based on the totality of the evidence, we conclude that the evidence presented does not support a conclusion that DeLay committed the crimes that were charged,” the judges ruled. “The fundamental problem with the State’s case was its failure to prove proceeds of criminal activity.”
The decision reversed DeLay's trial court conviction.
The former U.S. House Majority leader, a Republican from Sugar Land, was accused of ordering contributions from a state political action committee to the GOP’s federal accounts, which then contributed to seven candidates in Texas elections. The effect of that, according to prosecutors, was to funnel corporate money into political campaigns that would otherwise have been illegal.
Two of the three appellate judges said the state failed to prove that the money being laundered was the result of any criminal activity. In a dissent, Justice J. Woodfin Jones disagreed on that point, saying the money came from illegal corporate contributions. "A rational juror hearing the evidence presented in this trial could have found that the relevant corporate contributions... were made with the intent that they be used to support individual candidates or be put to other purposes not authorized" by law, he wrote.
The Travis County District Attorney's office prosecuted DeLay, and plans to ask the full Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to review the ruling. "We are concerned and disappointed that two judges substituted their assessment of the facts for that of 12 jurors who personally heard the testimony of over 40 witnesses over the course of several weeks and found that the evidence was sufficient and proved DeLay’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt," the prosecutors said in a press release.
Republicans, with DeLay’s help, succeeded in electing a Republican majority to the Texas House for the first time in modern state history. That Legislature elected a Republican speaker, and then passed redistricting maps that helped the party maintain control of both the House and Senate for the past decade.