Tom DeLay Sentenced to Three Years in Prison

Former House Speaker Tom DeLay was sentenced today to three years in state prison for his conviction on money laundering charges.

Senior Judge Pat Priest sentenced him to the three-year term on the conspiracy charge. He also sentenced him to five years in prison on the money laundering charge but allowed DeLay to accept 10 years of probation instead of more prison time.

The judge granted his request to be freed on bail after he is booked at the county jail. At sentencing, DeLay told the judge he was innocent and the charges were politically motivated.

"I can't be remorseful for something I don't think I did," DeLay said.

The appeal will take months, if not years.

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    I'll applaud this one (5.00 / 0) (#6)
    by brodie on Mon Jan 10, 2011 at 04:25:54 PM EST
    when I see the dude actually having to show up to begin serving his sentence.

    Until then, well call me skeptical, but he's a Republican and a formerly very powerful one at that, and it's Texas, and I remain doubtful he'll serve time at all or much more than a small fraction of the 3 yrs.

    What is truly unfortunate... (5.00 / 1) (#8)
    by kdog on Mon Jan 10, 2011 at 05:07:53 PM EST
    is not every convicted conspirator and money launderer gets treated the same...either cut 'em all this much slack or cage another one named Delay if we insist, but the inequality under the law is ri-god damn-diculous.

    I have some sympathy for the man, and (none / 0) (#13)
    by oculus on Mon Jan 10, 2011 at 05:40:21 PM EST
    espec. his family.

    I don't need him locked up... (none / 0) (#14)
    by kdog on Mon Jan 10, 2011 at 05:49:50 PM EST
    we need to do a whole lotta unlockin'...but that's just me.  

    I'll settle for a lot less different rules different fools.


    Calling Dr. Freud (5.00 / 1) (#22)
    by lentinel on Mon Jan 10, 2011 at 07:09:44 PM EST
    "I can't be remorseful for something I don't think I did," DeLay said.

    He doesn't think he did it.

    Too perfect.

    Evidence Legally Insufficient (1.00 / 1) (#16)
    by kramartini on Mon Jan 10, 2011 at 06:37:16 PM EST
    It is truly terrifying what one rogue prosecutor can do.

    There is absolutely zero evidence of a crime, and thus DeLay will be acquitted by the appeals court.

    But the damage to his political career and reputation is done.

    One the bright side, at least the Republican majority in the Texas Legislature will soon strip the Travis County DA of responsibility for public corruption cases and place it with the state Attorney General, where it belongs.

    Are those the new talking points? (5.00 / 2) (#17)
    by jbindc on Mon Jan 10, 2011 at 06:39:52 PM EST
    Nothing new (none / 0) (#20)
    by kramartini on Mon Jan 10, 2011 at 07:01:44 PM EST
    Ronnie Earle has been viewed by many as a rogue prosecutor for years.

    You can agree or disagree with that assessment, but it is nothing new.


    And Tom DeLay (5.00 / 1) (#33)
    by jbindc on Tue Jan 11, 2011 at 09:50:35 AM EST
    Has been viewed by many as a rogue politician who got too big for his britches and was as dirty and corrupt as the day is long. Apparently, a jury agreed.

    So what's your point?  That Ronnie Earle has magic powers to sway 12 people into bringing down the hand of justice on a poor innocent man who is being framed?  HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!


    The jury's finding of facts are not at issue. (none / 0) (#35)
    by kramartini on Tue Jan 11, 2011 at 11:45:51 AM EST
    The judge's ruling that the facts constitute a violation of law is the problem.

    If I was on the jury and faced with the jury instructions I might have voted to convict (even though I probably would have held out on the technical point that the wording of the instructions listed necessary, but not sufficient conditions, for a finding of guilt on the predicate offense of Chapter 253 of the Election Code.)


    Ronnie Earle (none / 0) (#39)
    by jbindc on Tue Jan 11, 2011 at 02:16:00 PM EST
    Is so corrupt, he brought charges against himself for violating campaign finance laws.  He takes it pretty seriously. He's prosecuted over 15 politicians - of both parties.  What makes you think this was just a partisian witch hunt (besides parroting DeLay's talking points)?

    Seems Ronnie Earle, unlike most politicians, puts his money where his mouth is.

    Tom DeLay just mouths off.


    Ronnie Earle fined himself $200... (none / 0) (#42)
    by kramartini on Tue Jan 11, 2011 at 03:19:19 PM EST
    and has gotten way more positive publicity from that than any other $200 spent by any politician in history....

    At lest he's consistent (none / 0) (#45)
    by jbindc on Tue Jan 11, 2011 at 04:03:41 PM EST
    And he didn't fine himself - a judge did. As far as I know prosecutors have no authority to fine someone.

    But I'm sure as most snakes do, DeLay will find a way to slither out of this.


    Techincally you are right (none / 0) (#47)
    by kramartini on Tue Jan 11, 2011 at 04:41:40 PM EST
    The judge did impose the fine.

    But Earle charged himself with a Class C misdemeanor in Justice Court where the maximum possible fine is $500, so his risk was limited...

    No denying Ronnie Earle did the right thing in this case, but it was hardly a sacrifice.


    I don't think the point was (none / 0) (#49)
    by jbindc on Tue Jan 11, 2011 at 05:07:29 PM EST
    necessarily to be a sacrifice - he just held himself to the same standard as other politicians.

    Actually a rare commodity in politics these days.


    Travis County prosecutors usually are a fair bunch (none / 0) (#50)
    by kramartini on Tue Jan 11, 2011 at 05:19:55 PM EST
    and I enjoy dealing with them professionally.

    But even though an organization or individual often does the right thing doesn't mean that they don't sometimes do wrong, like going on a political vendetta as in this case.

    Ronnie Earle really reached to get this case before a jury.

    First, he failed to get indictments for alleged election law violations from one grand jury.

    Then he convened a second grand jury less than a week later, and secured money laundering indictments within less than an hour of its being sworn in. There is no way that the second grand jury has time to truly understand the charges in the indictment. Note that the money laundering indictments are essentially a second bite at the apple, as they required the state to prove exactly the same thing as the election law allegations that were rejected by a grand jury that had actually taken the time to consider the facts and law.

    The rush job has led to a legally unsupportable conviction that will be overturned on appeal.


    This case (none / 0) (#51)
    by jbindc on Tue Jan 11, 2011 at 05:51:01 PM EST
    has taken 5 years from indictment to sentencing. In all that time, if there truly was no case, his high priced lawyer would have figured out a way to get him out of this.

    If the Republican-controlled Texas Court of Appeals overturns his conviction, I'm sure you will also be talking about how this is just political.


    Wrong (none / 0) (#52)
    by kramartini on Tue Jan 11, 2011 at 07:45:00 PM EST
    There is very little that a defense attorney in Texas can do after indictment but before a jury trial to get a case dismissed, except in unusual cases such as a facially unconstitutional statute, failure to allege the elements of a crime, double jeopardy, etc.

    There is simply no criminal procedure for the defense to file a no-evidence summary judgment based on insufficiency of evidence as there is in civil cases.

    The reason that the pre-trial habeas corpus petitions of DeLay associates Ellis and Colyandro failed is that the Appeals Courts (even the Republican-dominated ones) found the issues premature to be decided.

    Pre-trial matters of law are to be decided by the trial judge, and if the trial judge errs, the defense generally does not have the right to an interlocutory appeal. Instead, these issues are decided on appeal after conviction.

    Furthermore, there are even some issues that the trial judge cannot rule on pre-trial, the main one being the sufficiency of evidence.

    It is only after the prosecution presents its case-in-chief that issues of legal sufficiency can be addressed.

    This is why the role of the grand jury is so important. Once the grand jury finds probable cause to indict, there is nothing that can be done to challenge sufficiency of evidence until trial. When a grand jury abdicates its responsibility as it did here by taking insufficient time to examine the evidence and learn the law (the grand jury had been impaneled for less than one hour and had not even gone through orientation when it returned the indictments against DeLay), even the most high-priced lawyer has his hands tied.

    In short, the process, on hold for five years, is just beginning.


    Again (none / 0) (#53)
    by jbindc on Wed Jan 12, 2011 at 12:10:00 PM EST
    They had 5 years to come up with someone.  The prosecution cannot by law delay a trial again and again because of speedy trial laws, so the delays must have been because of the defense and court.

    The delays were caused by habeas corpus (none / 0) (#54)
    by kramartini on Wed Jan 12, 2011 at 01:40:04 PM EST
    proceedings  in the related trials of Ellis and Colyandro.

    The habeas petitions were denied on the grounds that the issues were not ripe to be decided pre-trial. (Although there was a lot of interesting debate among the appellate court judges as to WHY the issues were not ripe.)

    Once these worked their way through the courts, then DeLay's trial was able to proceed.


    His own beloved Texas... (none / 0) (#2)
    by jeffinalabama on Mon Jan 10, 2011 at 04:11:19 PM EST
    not a federal conviction.


    I doubt being so adamant re his (none / 0) (#3)
    by oculus on Mon Jan 10, 2011 at 04:14:24 PM EST
    innocence helped him re sentencing.

    I was thinking the same thing (none / 0) (#4)
    by ruffian on Mon Jan 10, 2011 at 04:16:45 PM EST
    If I were the judge I would have given him the 3 years to think about what he might have done wrong.

    One of the mitigating factors re (none / 0) (#5)
    by oculus on Mon Jan 10, 2011 at 04:17:43 PM EST
    sentencing in CA is expression of remorse.

    A Paradox (none / 0) (#18)
    by kramartini on Mon Jan 10, 2011 at 06:49:29 PM EST
    It is paradoxical that those who express remorse are treated more leniently than those who insist on their innocence.

    This means that those who are wrongly convicted and truthfully maintain their innocence are treated more harshly than those who are justly convicted and admit their guilt.

    This is what is happening in this case. While we must respect the jury's findings of fact, the facts proven don't constitute a crime. The only reason the jury convicted DeLay is that the judge erred in the jury instructions, which are contrary to a plain reading of the relevant statute, and which are unsupported by case law.

    The appeals court will acquit DeLay.


    Unfortunately (none / 0) (#7)
    by txpolitico67 on Mon Jan 10, 2011 at 04:55:11 PM EST
    Delay will probably never see the inside of a jail cell.  After all, here in Texas, republicans can do no wrong.  And with the all Republican state supreme court, the super-majority in the ledge and governor goodhair at the helm, he is basically a free man.  Ronnie Earle did the best he can within the frame of the law to see that Delay was brought to justice.

    Ronnie Earle's Last Hurrah (none / 0) (#19)
    by kramartini on Mon Jan 10, 2011 at 06:57:50 PM EST
    This will likely be the last high-profile public corruption case prosecuted by the Travis County DA.

    The Republicans will use their legislative majorities to change the current (fairly odd) system whereby the prosecutor from a single county has responsibility for public corruption by state and federal officials. A special office of the state Attorney General will likely take over.

    As for Ronnie Earle, it is good for him that he is retired, as he faces possible disciplinary charges before the State Bar for his misconduct in securing the Delay (and Ellis and Colyandro) indictments.


    woo hoo! (none / 0) (#9)
    by Capt Howdy on Mon Jan 10, 2011 at 05:12:41 PM EST

    amen (none / 0) (#12)
    by Capt Howdy on Mon Jan 10, 2011 at 05:23:50 PM EST
    to that

    The frightening thing (none / 0) (#15)
    by SOS on Mon Jan 10, 2011 at 06:01:57 PM EST
    is that these guys-types are even voted into office to begin with.

    DeLay will only need one appeal (none / 0) (#21)
    by kramartini on Mon Jan 10, 2011 at 07:06:45 PM EST
    Once the Third Court of Appeals gets the case, they will acquit DeLay on the grounds of legal insufficiency. (Not a new trial but an outright acquittal.)

    Then, if the Court of Criminal Appeals is smart, they will decline the state's petition for discretionary review and let the appeals court's acquittal stand.

    There will thus be no need for endless appeals in this case.

    You speak as tho you have different info (5.00 / 1) (#23)
    by christinep on Mon Jan 10, 2011 at 07:53:52 PM EST
    than the rest of us, kramartini? Are you close to the former Congressman?

    Read the Jury Charge (none / 0) (#25)
    by kramartini on Mon Jan 10, 2011 at 08:47:00 PM EST
    I am probably one of the few to have gone to the Travis County Courthouse and actually read the jury charge, which is quite confusing.

    Even though I am an attorney who represents criminal clients (in addition to other practice areas), it took me a while to decipher the charge. (God help the poor jurors!!!)

    This is because to convict on money laundering (and conspiracy to commit money laundering) the DA first needed to prove that DeLay committed (or conspired to commit) a predicate violation of the law, specifically certain provisions of Chapter 253 of the Texas Election Code.

    One needs to read really carefully to figure out that the indictment on money laundering (and conspiracy) was really the Travis County DA's second bite at the apple vis-a-vis the Election Code violation. (It should be noted that a grand jury declined to indict DeLay on the election charge less than week before the DA convened a SECOND grand jury to indict on the money laundering charge.)

    The main problem as I see it is that the jury charge is deficient with regard to the relevant provision of the Election Code, thus allowing a jury to convict based on legally insufficient facts. The interpretation of the Election Code in the jury charge is contrary to the plain meaning of the statute and is unsupported by any case law. (There are exactly zero reported cases available via Lexis which relate to the relevant Election Code section.)

    Once the facts are examined in light of a proper interpretation of the Election Code, the appeals court will have no choice but to render an acquittal (as jeopardy has already attached and legally insufficient facts were presented.)


    You avoided christinep's question (none / 0) (#30)
    by Edger on Tue Jan 11, 2011 at 06:40:57 AM EST
    What is your relationship with Delay, if any?

    You are right in that I only answered part of the (none / 0) (#31)
    by kramartini on Tue Jan 11, 2011 at 08:12:13 AM EST
    question. (I focused on the part of the question which asked if I had any better information than everyone else and I answered that I had actually read the jury charge, which most have not. I also browsed most of the motions filed in the case...)

    I met Tom DeLay once in 1995 (or maybe 1996 or 97???). It was just a political handshake and nothing more--no actual conversation.

    I also met his daughter I think twice during that same time period--at a bar in Houston introduced by mutual friends (and before she was married.)

    I have had no contact with either of them since.


    Well, I didn't ask if you'd had contact with him (5.00 / 1) (#32)
    by Edger on Tue Jan 11, 2011 at 09:41:05 AM EST
    I asked what your relationship with him is. You do not need to have physically "met" him to have a relationship - professional or otherwise - with him.

    You've apparently posted nearly identical comments to what you've posted here in various places as far back as December 04,2010 - at least here, here, here, and here (comments 75 & 76) if not more places.

    Those appear to be the only comments you've ever posted on those sites, and your comments in this thread are the only comments you've ever posted here at TalkLeft.

    This leads me to believe that you are not a regular commenter on political blogs, but only conducting a personal or professional "PR" campaign specifically for Delay. Are you being paid, or expect or hope to be otherwise compensated, for doing so?


    I am just really annoyed by this verdict... (none / 0) (#34)
    by kramartini on Tue Jan 11, 2011 at 11:42:31 AM EST
    and writing about it helps get it out of my system. Which means I will probably stop posting when I cool off about it.

    Plus, one of the reasons I am a lawyer is that I really enjoy doing legal research. Since I was at the courthouse anyway, I thought I would stop by the courtroom to watch some of the proceedings and visit the clerk's office to take a look at the filings in order to try and make sense of this, and maybe learn something from the great Dick DeGuerin. (And no, I am not billing any client for this time.)

    It is very sobering to me to see what can happen when an out of control prosecutor meets a compliant grand jury and a judge who fumbles a few key rulings (i.e. Judge Priest's comment that corporate and non-corporate money is "fungible" "like beans".)


    I imagine you'll be really annoyed (5.00 / 1) (#36)
    by Edger on Tue Jan 11, 2011 at 11:59:57 AM EST
    if the verdict is upheld and poor Tom has to actually pay for his crimes by serving his 3 years. But you won't be alone in that. It appears most other people will be disappointed also...

    Poll: Do you think Tom DeLay's three-year sentence for conspiring to direct laundered money to Republican candidates in 2002 was adequate?

    No      64%    
    Yes     21%    

    Few who took the poll have seen the evidence (none / 0) (#37)
    by kramartini on Tue Jan 11, 2011 at 12:39:17 PM EST
    or researched the law.

    Since I did not sit through the whole trial, I have no choice but to accept the jury's determination of the facts.

    But even if the jury is correct on the facts, the facts do not constitute a crime.

    You can easily look up the relevant statutes on the internet--see Texas Penal Code Section 34.02(b) and Texas Election Code Chapters 253 and 257 (and related chapters.)

    For the conviction to stand, there would need to be evidence that corporate money was received by Texas candidates. Since the money came from the non-corporate account of the RNC that can be traceable to individual donors, all of the money was "clean" non-corporate funds.

    Note also that Section 257.002 provides a safe harbor regarding the segregation of corporate funds.


    "clean" non-corporate funds? (none / 0) (#38)
    by Edger on Tue Jan 11, 2011 at 01:01:46 PM EST
    Heh. That would explain the need to "launder" them, of course. Of course.

    Houston Chronicle:

    To get a congressional redistricting plan that favored the GOP, the party had to get control of a Texas House that Democrats had held since Reconstruction.

    DeLay already had a national political committee called Americans for a Republican Majority, run by Jim Ellis. DeLay decided to clone the organization and call it Texans for a Republican Majority. Ellis chose his friend John Colyandro to run it.

    DeLay attended fundraisers and met with corporate donors to TRMPAC.
    Testimony in the case showed TRMPAC was running too short of funds in the general election to make major donations to Republican House candidates. Colyandro and Ellis began to arrange for a swap of TRMPAC corporate money for donations given to the Republican National Committee by individuals.

    Aug. 27, 2002: DeLay met in his Sugar Land office with RNC Political Director Terry Nelson to discuss Republican prospects in congressional races nationally. Records indicate Ellis may have attended that meeting.

    Sept. 10: Colyandro signed a blank check and had it sent to Ellis in Washington, D.C.

    Sept. 11: A Federal Express receipt shows the check arrived at Ellis' office at 11:58 a.m. DeLay's calendar showed Ellis at a group meeting in DeLay's office from 1-2:30 p.m. Two DeLay aides testified that they did not believe DeLay attended the meeting.

    Sept. 13: Ellis met with Nelson to arrange to swap $190,000 in corporate money from TRMPAC for donations to candidates from the RNC's noncorporate account. Ellis also gave Nelson a list of seven candidates who were to receive the $190,000 in candidate-eligible funds.

    Oct. 2: DeLay's calendar showed he met with Ellis on ARMPAC business. DeGuerin said that was when Ellis told DeLay about the money swap. During the trial, DeLay told reporters he could have stopped the swap then, but thought it was legal.

    Oct. 4: Checks totaling $190,000 were cut for the seven Texas House candidates.

    DeGuerin has contended that no money laundering occurred because TRMPAC legally could raise corporate money and legally transfer it to the RNC. DeGuerin said the RNC then legally could send money raised from individuals to the candidates.

    The jury disagreed with DeGuerin. So do most other people.


    The jury does not decide questions of law... (none / 0) (#40)
    by kramartini on Tue Jan 11, 2011 at 03:14:16 PM EST
    only of fact.

    We have finally gotten to the crux of the issue.

    Now that the jury has determined the facts, we move to matters of law. Did the facts proven at trial constitute a crime?

    A careful reading of the statutes shows that the issue is not whether the "swap" was legal, but rather whether any corporate funds were received by Texas candidates.

    All sides agree that the RNC account from which money was disbursed to candidates contained only donations which can be traced to individuals. No corporate money was ever deposited into that account.

    All sides also agree that the corporate TRMPAC money raised by DeLay and sent to the RNC was placed in a properly segregated account designated for corporate funds.

    All sides agree that corporate and non-corporate funds were never commingled.

    The prosecution argues that the relationship between the movement of non-corporate money and corporate money somehow tainted the corporate money. The prosecution provides no legal authority to support their position, because there is none. (There is absolutely NO useful case law on this.)

    The defense argues that the segregation of funds is sufficient to comply with the law. Texas Election Code Section 257.002 supports this position.

    Result: defense wins on appeal. Tom DeLay is not guilty as a matter of law.


    oops (none / 0) (#41)
    by kramartini on Tue Jan 11, 2011 at 03:16:44 PM EST
    I meant somehow tainted the NON-corporate money.

    Heh. Yes, well (none / 0) (#44)
    by Edger on Tue Jan 11, 2011 at 03:57:49 PM EST
    I suppose if I give you a dollar bill with a different serial number on it than on one I receive from a corporate donor then it's not the same dollar at all.

    Exactly!!!!! (none / 0) (#46)
    by kramartini on Tue Jan 11, 2011 at 04:37:31 PM EST
    If there is no possible path for corporate money to enter the campaign coffers of Texas candidates, the relevant sections of Chapter 253 of the election code have not been violated.

    With no violation of Chapter 253, there is no predicate felony on which to base the money laundering charges.

    Or to put is another way, no corporate money was "laundered" into non-corporate money, since the total sum of corporate and non-corporate money was unaffected by the transfers at issue. Contrast that with the typical money laundering situation in which money from, say, drug sales, is laundered through a legitimate business, say a nightclub, with the result that all of the drug money is passed off as profits from the nightclub.

    If you can show me commingling of corporate and non-corporate funds, then I would say DeLay is guilty. But you can't, and so he isn't.


    You are entertaining, (none / 0) (#48)
    by Edger on Tue Jan 11, 2011 at 05:04:19 PM EST
    I'll give you that. :-)

    As our fearless List-Owner, Ms. TL, often says (none / 0) (#24)
    by Peter G on Mon Jan 10, 2011 at 08:03:17 PM EST
    "This is a criminal defense site."  Despite being 100% opposite to Delay politically and someone who long considered him to be a sleazeball, I am rather uncomfortable about all the gloating (KDog excepted -- good thinking, dude) about someone being sentenced to three years in prison for a nonviolent first offense ... not to mention that from what I've been able to tell reading about it, what he was convicted of was quite a stretch of pre-existing Texas criminal laws.  I hope he wins his appeal.

    No evidence was presented that corporate money... (none / 0) (#27)
    by kramartini on Mon Jan 10, 2011 at 09:56:44 PM EST
    was ever used to fund Texas legislative races.

    All money that was donated to the Texas candidates at DeLay's request can be traced to individual donors.

    Likewise, all corporate money that was collected by DeLay and company was kept in segregated accounts and never used to fund any Texas legislative race, but was instead used for permitted purposes.

    The fact that DeLay may have directed the transfer and/or expenditure of both corporate and non-corporate funds is not a violation of the law so long as the corporate and non-corporate funds were segregated from one another per Tex. Elec. Code Sec. 257.002.

    Judge Priest's failure to recognize this led to a faulty jury charge that led to the conviction.


    I thought (none / 0) (#28)
    by Makarov on Mon Jan 10, 2011 at 10:33:58 PM EST
    the evidence consisted of a PAC or other group under Delay's control raised a specific amount of corporate money. Let's say it was $100K (the amount I saw reported was different). $100K was transferred from the Delay group to the RNC. On or about the same time, $100K was transferred from the RNC to another group which distributed the funds to various state campaigns.

    Delay's defenders state the amounts and dates are pure coincidence. Apparently they failed to convince a judge and jury of their view.


    Actually the amount was $190,000... (none / 0) (#29)
    by kramartini on Mon Jan 10, 2011 at 10:39:35 PM EST
    but Markarov is otherwise correct.

    However, there was no violation of Texas law so long as the corporate and non-corporate funds were kept segregated, which they were.


    sweatshops by day, prostitution at night (none / 0) (#43)
    by jondee on Tue Jan 11, 2011 at 03:36:14 PM EST
    o.k, so we skip the prison time, and let the Machievellian, egg sucking weasal from Texas serve out one of those two year sweatshop contracts those women work under in the Mariannas.

    It's not like this would be the first time he's peddled his sorry as*.