The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

By Laylan Copelin, Austin American-Statesman

AUSTIN, Texas — Tom DeLay’s legal saga will have at least one more chapter.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Wednesday agreed to hear the money-laundering and conspiracy charges that ended the political career of former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom “The Hammer” DeLay eight years ago.

Last fall, the 3rd Court of Appeals in Austin dismissed DeLay’s conviction and three-year prison sentence, saying prosecutors used “legally insufficient evidence” at DeLay’s 2010 trial before a Travis County jury. The vote in favor of the Sugar Land Republican was 2-1, along partisan lines.

Travis County prosecutors appealed that decision. On Wednesday, the state’s highest criminal court agreed to hear the case.

Brian Wice, DeLay’s appellate lawyer, had hoped to persuade the Court of Criminal Appeals to reject the state’s appeal.

“We’re not surprised that the state’s highest criminal court wants to hear a case as important as Tom’s is,” Wice said Wednesday. “We’re confident.”

Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg said, “I continue to believe that the jury’s verdict was correct. I am pleased and confident that the court will give us fair consideration.”

The long-running case dates back to a $190,000 transaction during the 2002 elections when DeLay and his allies were trying to elect a GOP majority to the Texas Legislature that, in turn, would draw congressional districts more favorable to the GOP.

Under state law, corporations can give money for the overhead expenses of a political action committee but not to a candidate.

Texans for a Republican Majority, a political action committee led by DeLay, exchanged $190,000 of its corporate donations for the same amount from an arm of the Republican National Committee. The national committee’s $190,000, which were legal donations from a separate bank account, went to seven Texas candidates.

The issue is whether the transaction was money laundering or not.

Writing for the majority, 3rd Court Justice Melissa Goodwin said prosecutors failed to prove the $190,000 was “proceeds of criminal activity.”

She noted that the jury asked whether the $190,000 was “illegal at the start of the transaction” or “procured by illegal means originally.”

Goodwin said prosecutors didn’t prove that point — which she said was a critical element to conspiring to launder money — and the trial judge never answered the jurors’ questions. Instead, he referred them to the jury charge.

Holly Taylor, an assistant district attorney, argued that the 3rd Court of Appeals was wrong to throw out DeLay’s conviction.

She wrote in her appeal that the 3rd Court substituted its judgment for that of the jury with regard to the credibility of the witnesses and the weight of the evidence.

Taylor also disputed that the prosecutors had to show that the transaction involved the “very same dollars that were the direct profits of the felonious act.”

Finally, she wrote that the prosecutors shouldn’t have to prove that “the elements of money laundering were completed” in order to prove a conspiracy occurred.

Wice argued that if the state didn’t prove money laundering, it had insufficient evidence for a conspiracy conviction.

He also dismissed the lengthy prosecution as a “purely partisan pursuit.”

Photo: Jimmy Bramlett via Flickr

Advertising

Start your day with National Memo Newsletter

Know first.

The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning

MAGA Children's Books

The GOP descent into full-blown conspiracy and fascist hell has not gone unnoticed as of late. With the right-wing dominated Supreme Court poised to finally overturn Roe V Wade and 2022 races focusing on backing Republicans who support Trump's 2020 election lies, democracy and decency are all but dead and Democrats are going to have to turn out big in the midterms to prevent a GOP takeover over the House or Senate.

But while the focus of progressive ire has been over the GOP's assault on reproductive rights, Republicans have also been waging a war on facts and education quite well. After all, they need their voters nice and ignorant to remain in power. Book banning and, sickeningly, book burning is a thing for the GOP in the year 2022. The state of Tennessee, for example, is banning books. In fact, a psychotic trump zealot pastor led an actual book-burning event.

Keep reading... Show less

Pat McCrory

Youtube Screenshot

If former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory is any indication, the GOP primary wounds wrought in the last several months stand a good chance of bleeding into the general election this fall.

McCrory, who lost his bid Tuesday to become the Republican nominee for the Tar Heel State's open Senate seat, declined to endorse his GOP rival, Rep. Ted Budd, the Trump endorsee.

Keep reading... Show less
{{ post.roar_specific_data.api_data.analytics }}