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Texas appeals court hears arguments in DeLay conspiracy case

[JURIST] The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals [court website] heard oral arguments Wednesday on whether criminal conspiracy charges brought against former US Rep. Tom Delay [JURIST news archive] were properly dismissed at trial. Charges of conspiracy to violate election law and conspiracy to commit money laundering were dismissed [JURIST report] last December after the trial court found that the Texas campaign finance statute was explicitly extended to allow the laying of criminal conspiracy charges only after DeLay's alleged wrongful acts. In April, the Texas Third Court of Appeals affirmed that decision [JURIST report] but refused to dismiss actual money laundering charges [JURIST document] against DeLay.

Prosecutors Wednesday asked the court to either overrule or distinguish those cases. Lawyers for DeLay argued that DeLay would not have had fair notice that his conduct was illegal at the time it occurred unless the statute then explicitly contemplated criminal conspiracy charges, which it did not, and that the legislature's subsequent amendment of the statute to include those charges showed that criminal conspiracy to violate election laws was a crime at the time of DeLay's actions. The Austin American-Statesman has local coverage.

DeLay and two other Republicans are accused of transferring $190,000 in corporate money directly to the Republican National Committee, which then donated the same amount to local Texas campaigns. DeLay and the other suspects have denied raising or spending money illegally. After he was indicted [JURIST report], DeLay stepped down as House majority leader and later resigned from Congress [JURIST reports]. DeLay withdrew his name from the November ballot [JURIST report] after several courts ruled that the Texas Republican Party could not name a new candidate to run in his place.

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