Tom Delay 1, Ronny Earle 0 (updated)

Too late to save his political career, Tom Delay has won the first round


The state's highest criminal court today affirmed the 2005 dismissal of a felony indictment against former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and two associates.

In the 5-4 decision, the court affirmed Judge Pat Priest's decision to throw out an indictment accusing DeLay and his associates, Jim Ellis and John Colyandro, of conspiring to violate state election laws. The Sugar Land Republican, who retired from Congress in 2006 because of the indictments arising from the 2002 elections, still faces a charge of conspiring to launder corporate money into campaign donations.

In 2005, just months after the indictments, Priest ruled that the state's conspiracy statute did not apply to the election code until Sept. 1, 2003, long after the 2002 elections in which DeLay's political committee, Texans for a Republican Majority, spent about $600,000 of corporate money on consultants, professional fundraisers and pollsters as part of an effort to elect a GOP majority to the Legislature. That Republican-dominated Legislature then approved DeLay's plan to redraw the state's congressional map to favor Republicans.

Tom Delay has responded to the Court's vindication of him:
"The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals today ruled that I was wrongfully indicted by Ronnie Earle, the Mike Nifong of Texas, on laws that didn't even exist. The court affirmed the decision to throw out the conspiracy indictments because they were based on laws that weren't even on the books. What Ronnie Earle accomplished is no rookie error - it's a political attack using our legal system as the primary weapon.

"Ronnie Earle's politically motivated indictments cost Republicans the leader of their choice, and my family hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees. The damage he has done to my family and my career cannot be rectified, but the courts have recognized a significant portion of the injustice and ruled accordingly. For nearly two years I have been willing and eager to go to trial and with this ruling, we are thankfully closer to that day.

"Ronnie Earle may think this case is about campaign finance, but in the end it will be a case about his own prosecutorial misconduct."