AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - Texas’ highest criminal court upheld on Wednesday the dismissal of a campaign finance conspiracy charge that contributed to the political fall of Republican Tom DeLay, but he still may face trial on two other felony counts.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals refused to reinstate a charge thrown out by a lower court that DeLay and two associates conspired to violate Texas election law by funneling corporate money to Republican state legislature candidates in 2002.
Corporate political donations are forbidden under Texas law, but the charge was dismissed on a legal technicality.
“We knew we were right from the start. The bottom line is (Travis County District Attorney) Ronnie Earle’s office obtained an indictment that wasn’t even on the books,” DeLay attorney Dick DeGuerin told Reuters.
DeLay, the former U.S. House of Representative majority leader, still is charged with money laundering and conspiracy to launder money, but has appealed the indictments on grounds they were politically motivated.
He has accused Earle, a Democrat, of pursuing him because his success as House Republican leader had made him a favorite target of Democrats.
Presiding Judge Pat Priest has said he will not set a trial date until the appeals are finished.
DeLay and former associates Jim Ellis and John Colyandro are accused of using corporate money illegally as part of a campaign to win a Republican majority in the Texas Legislature in the 2002 election.
Republicans did win control and at DeLay’s urging redrew state congressional districts to favor the election of more Republicans to the U.S. House of Representatives.
But the indictments, handed up by Travis County grand juries in September and October 2005, forced DeLay to resign from the No. 2 leadership post in the House, where he was known as “The Hammer” for his strict enforcement of party discipline.
In 2006, amid a growing scandal about his links to corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff, he withdrew from his race for re-election to his congressional seat in a suburban Houston district.
Additional reporting by Erwin Seba in Houston