AUSTIN (AP) – Former U.S. House Majority Leader and GOP heavyweight Tom DeLay is getting ready to make his case to an appeals court that his 2010 conviction for taking part in a scheme to influence Texas elections should be overturned.
Attorneys for DeLay, who once held the No. 2 job in the House of Representatives, and the Travis County District Attorney’s Office were set to make oral arguments Wednesday before the 3rd Court of Appeals.
DeLay, 65, was found guilty in November 2010 of money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering for helping illegally funnel corporate money to Texas candidates in 2002. He was sentenced to three years in prison, but that was put on hold while his case was appealed.
The former Houston-area congressman has maintained his prosecution was politically motivated by Ronnie Earle, the now-retired Democratic Travis County district attorney in Austin.
Prosecutor Holly Taylor has said politics did not play a role in DeLay’s case and his trial was a legitimate prosecution.
Jurors in Austin determined DeLay conspired with two associates, John Colyandro and Jim Ellis, to use his Texas-based political action committee to funnel a check for $190,000 in corporate money through an arm of the Washington-based Republican National Committee. The RNC then sent the same amount to seven Texas House candidates. Under state law, corporate money cannot be given directly to political campaigns.
Prosecutors claim the money helped the GOP take control of the Texas House, enabling them to push through a DeLay-engineered congressional redistricting plan that sent more Republicans to Congress in 2004, strengthening his political power.
DeLay’s attorney, Brian Wice, has said he plans to argue that no crime occurred because in 2002 money laundering in Texas only applied to funds in the form of cash and not checks. The state law was later changed to also specify checks.
Wice said money laundering did not occur because no illegal funds were funneled through the RNC.
The appeals process was delayed in part because some of the appeals court justices recused themselves. Also, DeLay successfully had a judge on the panel removed because of anti-Republican comments she made.
Wice said the composition of the panel after the changes — two Republicans and one Democrat— won’t give him an advantage.
The appeals court was to issue its ruling at a later date.
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