Brian Wice, DeLay's appeals attorney, told the judges that in 2002, the state's money laundering law did not include checks in its definition of funds. Wice said if the Texas Legislature had intended to have checks included in the statute it would have done so when it first passed the law in 1993. The law was amended in 2005 to include checks.
"Certainly while on some level (DeLay's actions) were distasteful to some people, it wasn't a crime," Wice said.
In 2008, a different panel of the same appeals court ruled in a challenge that was brought forth by Colyandro and Ellis that checks were not covered by the money laundering statute prior to 2005. But the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals later overruled that decision, saying the lower court should not have addressed the issue.
Prosecutor Holly Taylor said the judges shouldn't consider such a narrow interpretation of the law when making their decision and that checks were always meant to be considered under the statute.
"Crimes were being prosecuted in money laundering by people using checks," Taylor said in reference to other cases that have gone up for review in other appeals courts around the state. "Our penal statute should not be strictly construed."
While questioning Taylor, the judges seemed to express some doubt about the prosecution's case, saying they had trouble determining how donations made by a corporation to DeLay's PAC became the proceeds of criminal activity under the money laundering statute.
Taylor said while corporate money could be legally used to pay for administrative costs, DeLay's PAC told the corporations that the funds would be provided directly to campaigns, thus turning the money into criminal proceeds.
Taylor admitted to the judges that the money laundering law as well as Texas election law can be "a little hard to understand."
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