Election Law

Tom DeLay's money laundering conviction overturned; court says evidence was insufficient


A Texas appeals court has overturned the money laundering conviction of former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and entered a judgment of acquittal.

In a 2-1 ruling, the 3rd District Court of Appeals said the evidence was legally insufficient to support the charges of money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering. The Houston Chronicle, the Associated Press, the Washington Post and Bloomberg News have stories. The Election Law Blog links to the majority opinion (PDF) and the dissent (PDF).

DeLay was convicted in 2010 on charges that he funneled $190,000 in corporate donations to Republican candidates for the Texas Legislature. The predicate offense for the state money laundering convictions was violation of state election law that barred corporate contributions in local races.

DeLay had argued that his transactions were structured to comply with campaign finance laws, so there were no proceeds of criminal activity to support the money laundering conviction. The appeals court said that, at most, the evidence showed an agreement to transfer corporate money to the Republican National State Elections Committee for use in other states, in exchange for an agreement to transfer money to Texas candidates out of a different account that didn’t contain corporate money.

“Rather than supporting an agreement to violate the Election Code, the evidence shows that the defendants were attempting to comply with the Election Code limitations on corporate contributions,” the court said. Jurors were also confused about the need to prove whether the funds were derived from criminal activity, and the judge did not clear up the confusion, the opinion said.

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