The 3rd Court of Appeals in Austin overturned DeLay’s 2010 conviction with a 2-1 vote.
The Republican from Sugar Land had been convicted of breaking campaign finance laws by channeling $190,000 from corporate donations to Republican candidates in Texas.
The appeals court concluded that the evidence was “legally insufficient” to sustain DeLay's convictions and overturned his three-year prison sentence. DeLay hadn’t yet served any of his punishment pending the appeal.
DeLay’s attorney, Brian Wice, says the former congressman feels relieved and gratified by the decision.
“We both felt vindicated. I think that it wasn’t enough for the cadre of prosecutors, investigators and sometimes persecutors to investigate, convict and attempt to imprison him, but they sought to destroy his life.”
Wice says trials are about the facts and emotions while appeals are about the law and logic, and that’s why DeLay’s conviction was overturned.
“We are no longer in a situation where you’re attempting to stampede a jury into blindly finding someone guilty when at the end of the day the law was clear that what Tom did wasn’t a violation of the law.”
But Gerald Treece, professor at South Texas College of Law, says the case is far from over. Not long after the decision by the appeals court, the Travis County District Attorney’s Office announced that it will appeal the case in the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.
“If the Court of Criminal Appeals refused to review this, which I doubt, then it will be over. But my prediction is they will grant review and that they will set the matter down for arguments, and then about a year from today we’ll find out if Mr. DeLay is convicted or not.”
But regardless of the final outcome, DeLay’s political career is likely over. Political science Prof. Bob Stein of Rice University says he doesn’t see the Republican ever running for office again.
“Much of the damage is done. This often happens in these political events. This is not the story that anyone’s going to remember. What they’re going to remember is that he was convicted earlier. They’ll remember that he was, of course as one of many events that transpired in that period of time, lost his seat, lost his leadership role and many would say lost most of his political clout in the process.”
Brian Wice, the attorney, doesn’t exclude the possibility of DeLay re-entering the political arena at some point but says right now he’s hard-pressed to think about it.
About the DA’s appeal request to the Criminal Court of Appeals, Wice says his response is, “Good luck!”