Saturday, August 04, 2007

 

Texas State Prosecutor asks for Tom Delay's reindictment on conspiracy

In December 2005 ex-Representative Tom Delay of Sugar Land, former Republican Majority Leader in the House of Representatives, got a reprieve from one of the charges he faced in the State of Texas. A district court judge tossed out the charge of conspiracy to violate the Texas Election Code.

It is against the Election Code for corporations to donate money to a campaign within 60 days of an election. Delay promptly set up a PAC to do just that. Texans for a Republican Majority (TRMPAC) received money from corporations all over the country, then laundered the contributions through the ongoing criminal enterprise known as the Republican National Committee (RNC).

Though the the judge rejected the charge of conspiracy to violate the Election Code, the charges of money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering—both felonies—remain. In June the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, all Republicans, voted 5-4 to uphold the judge's ruling.

Now comes Jeffrey Van Horn, the Texas State Prosecutor, who has asked in a friend-of-the-court brief for the appellate court to reconsider its ruling. It isn't that Van Horn is out to get Delay, who is being prosecuted by Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle. it's that the ruling, if let stand, would eliminate all charges of conspiracy under state law unless the state legislature has specifically authorized the bringing of a conspiracy charge in connection with a given criminal act. Texas has a separate Conspiracy Statute.

R.G. Ratcliffe writes,

In an unusual move, the state prosecuting attorney has joined Travis County prosecutors in asking the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to reverse itself and reinstate an indictment against former U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land.
....

The Court of Criminal Appeals in a 5-4 ruling in June refused to reverse a district judge's decision to throw out an indictment against DeLay alleging conspiracy to violate the Election Code.

To rule against DeLay would have required the court to overturn decisions that had been issued in 1976 and 1977 regarding how the state's conspiracy law applied to other statutes.
....

After considering the case for 13 months, the all-Republican Court of Criminal Appeals shot Earle down on the narrow vote. But two of the judges who ruled against Earle said they did so because the earlier case law was what existed at the time of DeLay's alleged crime.

Van Horn told the court that should not matter in this case because conspiracy requires the people involved to commit a felony, not just a conspiracy. If DeLay and two co-defendants knew their actions violated the felony code, Van Horn said, then the conspiracy statute should also apply.

In an interview, Van Horn said he gave the court a brief in support of Earle's request for a rehearing because the ruling would affect many areas of criminal law. He said under the court's ruling, the conspiracy statute will only apply to crimes that have been specifically designated by the Legislature as having a conspiracy element.

As the reporter notes, courts don't like to reverse themselves. And this court may be especially responsive to the needs of Tom Delay. On the other hand, these "law-and-order" Republican judges may not relish seeing a cascade of conspiracy charges dropped if they let their ruling stand.

Related post
Indicted Republican likely to lead House Republicans (11/17/04)
Can the Republican Party be RICOed as an ongoing criminal enterprise? (9/14/05)

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