Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Dismissal of Conspiracy Charge Against DeLay Upheld

The Texas Third District Court of Appeals upheld the trial court's dismissal of a conspiracy charge against former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (opinion here).  Travis Country (Austin, Texas) grand juries charged DeLay with money laundering and conspiracy to violate the state's election law related to funneling campaign contributions from corporations through third parties before distributing them to candidates in Texas in 2002.  The election law was amended in 2003 and explicitly authorizes a conspiracy charge for violating the campaign contribution rules, but that was after DeLay's alleged illegal conduct.  In upholding the decision to dismiss, the appellate court stated:

Although the legislature amended the election code in 2003 to explicitly incorporate a conspiracy offense, the State cannot rely on this amendment because DeLay is charged with conduct that took place prior to its enactment. See Tex. Elec. Code Ann. ยง 1.018 (West Supp. 2005). Instead, the State contends that conspiring to violate the election code has always been an offense and that the 2003 amendment merely clarified the law. 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. Because the conspiracy provision of the penal code did not apply to making an illegal contribution under the election code at the time of the alleged criminal conduct, we affirm the district court's order.

The money laundering indictment that includes a charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering is not affected by the earlier dismissal and can proceed to trial unless District Attorney Ronnie Earle appeals to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, further delaying the case (so to speak).  DeLay announced that he will resign from his seat in the near future, and will be out of Congress by the time the case goes to trial. (ph)

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