Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

Appeals court upholds dismissal of DeLay conspiracy indictment

The 3dr Court of Appeals in Austin has upheld the dismissal of the conspiracy charge against soon-to-be-former Congressman Tom DeLay.

The Sugar Land Republican, who has announced he plans to retire from Congress, still faces money-laundering charges. But the appellate court said Judge Pat Priest was correct to dismiss an indictment accusing DeLay and two associates of conspiring to violate the state election laws.

Priest ruled last year that the state’s conspiracy statute did not apply to the election code until Sept. 1, 2005 – long after DeLay was accused of laundering corporate money into political donations for the 2002 legislative elections.

The hearing in this case was four weeks ago, so the ruling was quicker than expected – I’d predicted mid-May, based on how long it took to hold the hearing in the first place.

There was no immediate reaction to today’s decision, but prosecutors have the right to appeal to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

DeLay’s lawyer Dick DeGuerin said he expected prosecutors would appeal: “I wouldn’t be surprised if Ronnie Earle (Travis County district attorney) didn’t continue to drag this thing out.”

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Earle is 100% within his rights to pursue the appeal. The fact that this is inconvenient to DeLay is irrelevant.

One could argue, in fact, that Earle’s continued pursuit of DeLay after his resignation announcement, including another round of appeals in this matter, is more evidence that Earle is not motivated by politics in this case. If all Earle wanted was to drive DeLay out of Congress, he’s accomplished that goal. He has no further need to go after a conviction he’s less likely to get than the ones he ought to get against the TRMPAC Three. Given DeLay’s new lame-duck status, I’d say that if Earle dropped the charges against DeLay now, that would be proof of partisan witch hunting. Doggedness in the face of no further political gain would seem to me to be the refutation of that allegation.

UPDATE: Interesting tidbit here in the written opinion:

Were we writing on a clean slate, the State’s argument would carry considerable weight because Texas has had a generally applicable conspiracy offense since the nineteenth century. However, we are bound by controlling precedent that limits the applicability of the penal code’s conspiracy provision to offenses found within the penal code.

Interesting. Perhaps the CCA will find cause to do something about those controlling precedents. Thanks much to Ken for the tip.

Related Posts:

  • No Related Posts

4 Comments

  1. Kenneth Fair says:

    I was also surprised at how quickly the court ruled on this. But in some ways, it’s not so surprising, since it’s a fairly simple ruling. The Third Court of Appeals said, essentially, “We agree with the State, but we’re bound by precedent from the Court of Criminal Appeals.”

    Given this language, it’s more likely the CCA would grant review if requested, and thus it really wouldn’t surprise me to see Earle appeal this decision.

  2. el_longhorn says:

    A good, simple opinion from the Third Court. They disagree with the law, but they are bound by it.

  3. Tim says:

    One could argue, in fact, that Earle’s continued pursuit of DeLay after his resignation announcement, including another round of appeals in this matter, is more evidence that Earle is not motivated by politics in this case. If all Earle wanted was to drive DeLay out of Congress, he’s accomplished that goal.

    How so? Maybe the motivation is to keep making DeLay an issue against Republicans in November?

    I’m not saying that IS Earle’s motive, merely that this doesn’t *prove* it’s not motivated by politics.

  4. John Cobarruvias says:

    DeLay is old news.

    Didn’t he quit a while back?