AUSTIN (CN) - Texas' highest criminal court on Wednesday tossed out the money laundering and conspiracy convictions of former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom Delay, putting an end to the decade-long saga that sidetracked his political career.
In an 8-to 1 ruling, The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals upheld a 2013 decision from the state's Third Court of Appeals that threw out the convictions for lack of evidence.
The court ruled that state prosecutors failed to prove corporate campaign contributions were illegally funneled to Texas candidates in the middle of a Republican plan to redraw legislative districts.
DeLay, 67, was convicted by a Harris County jury in November 2010 of laundering $190,000 of corporate money in 2002 from one of his political action committees, Texans for a Republican Majority, through the Republican National State Elections Committee.
The money eventually reached seven candidates campaigning for the Texas Legislature, handpicked by Delay's PAC. Corporate lobbyists had donated the money to the PAC.
DeLay and his attorneys claimed that he did not launder money because the money was not the same money as it was moved around - a claim the prosecutor called "ridiculous."
DeLay's indictment forced him out of Congress after 20 years in the House, though he helped Republicans win control of the Texas Legislature for the first time since Reconstruction. The move allowed Texas lawmakers to redraw the state's political map to favor congressional Republicans.
DeLay was sentenced to three years in state prison, but has remained free pending appeal.
Writing for the majority, Judge Tom Price echoed the 2013 court of appeals decision that Delay's PAC money's changing hands did not rise to the level of a felony under the Election Code and cannot support the money laundering or conspiracy conviction.
"We agree with the court of appeal's ultimate conclusion that, as a matter of law, what the State has proven in this case does not constitute either of the alleged criminal offenses," Price wrote.
Judge Lawrence E. Meyers, a Republican until late last year, was the sole dissenter. Meyers was elected to the court in 1992 as a Republican but switched parties in December to run for the Texas Supreme Court as a Democrat. He faces a Republican incumbent in the November election in a state that has not elected a Democrat to statewide office since the late 1990s.Follow @@eidelagarza
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