AUSTIN (KXAN) - The Texas Third Court of Appeals on Thursday reversed the conviction of former U.S. House Leader Tom DeLay's conviction on money-laundering charges.
The ruling says the former Texas congressman conviction is reversed and that he is "discharged from all further liability."
"Because we conclude that the evidence was legally insufficient to sustain DeLay’s convictions, we reverse the judgments of the trial court and render judgments of acquittal," the court said in its 2-1 ruling written by Judge Melissa Goodwin.
“The fundamental problem with the State’s case was its failure to prove proceeds of criminal activity.”
But Judge Woodie Jones, the lone dissenter, argued in a separate opinion that the $190,000 in corporate contributions were intended to support individual candidates and therefore illegal.
During his time in Congress, the Sugar Land Republican emerged as a political powerhouse who engineered the GOP's final takeover of Texas politics. When he was majority leader in the U.S. House a decade ago, the Texas congressional delegation was dominated by Democrats.
But DeLay persuaded the new GOP majority in the Texas Legislature to redraw the state's congressional district to undercut the Democrats' strength, even though those districts were drawn just two years before by a federal court.
DeLay's bold but unprecedented move twice sent legislative Democrats out of state to stall action under the Capitol dome in Austin. First more than 50 Democratic House members bolted to Ardmore, Okla., for nearly a week.
They came back and DeLay's redistricting plans appeared thwarted. But during a special legislative session, the Senate Democrats bolted, and stayed gone six weeks. But They finally returned and the GOP plan became law.
After redistricting, DeLay, along with political associates John Colyandro and Jim Ellis, were accused by then-Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle of laundering $190,000 in illegal campaign money through DeLay's Americans for a Republican Majority in order to tip the scales in the GOP's favor in legislative elections.
DeLay resigned from Congress in 2006 amid his legal troubles.
In 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice ended its own investigation without filing any criminal charges against him. DeLay maintained that the charges were purely political, brought by Earle, a Democrat who DeLay said was trying to destroy his career.
His defense attorney Dick DeGuerin said DeLay was prosecuted "because he was so successful in bringing about redistricting in Texas."
DeLay's attorney, Brian Wice, said DeLay felt validated by Thursday's ruling, which can be appealed by prosecutors.
"Regardless what you think about Tom Delay, his political beliefs, or his background," Wice said. "at the end of the day, he violated no rule, law or statute and should never have been put in harm's way, should never been part of the criminal justice system."
The District Attorney's office said it was disappointed in the 2-1 ruling and was preparing its next move.
"We strongly disagree with the opinion of Judges Goodwin and Gaultney that the evidence was insufficient." the statement said. " We are concerned and disappointed that two judges substituted their assessment of the facts for that of 12 jurors who personally heard the testimony of over 40 witnesses over the course of several weeks and found that the evidence was sufficient and proved DeLay’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt."
Sub-freezing temperatures and an approaching upper level disturbance could combine to produce some patchy freezing drizzle or sleet Saturday and early Sunday morning.
Investigators are still trying to figure out who murdered an Austin teacher in Benghazi on Thursday.
Back in June, Governor Rick Perry signed a new law officially letting teachers and students use greetings such as "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Hannukah" in school, all without getting in any trouble.
The Round Rock-based computer giant, Dell Inc., is offering some workers voluntary buyouts as it seeks to trim costs and boost productivity.
The Austin Humane Society reopened to the public Friday after closing its doors for six weeks.
Sub-freezing temperatures will continue across much of Central Texas all day Saturday. A second disturbance associated with the winter storm that slammed Texas Thursday and Friday could lead to more freezing precipitation Saturday and …