In a long fall from grace, former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay was sentenced to three years in prison for "conspiring to direct laundered corporate money" to seven state house candidates in 2002. In his prime, DeLay was one of the most powerful men in Congress, holding the second highest spot in the House of Representatives. "What we feel is that justice was served," said lead prosecutor Gary Cobb in the aftermath of the ruling. Meanwhile, DeLay firmly maintained his innocence. "I can't be remorseful for something I don't think I did," he said. He promised to appeal the ruling. Did the former House majority leader get off easy?

  • What Was His Crime, Again?  "DeLay was found guilty of conspiring in 2002 to use his political action committee to send $190,000 in corporate contributions to the Republican National Committee, which then sent the money to candidates for the Texas House," explains Linda Feldmann at The Christian Science Monitor. That violated state laws in Texas and may have also entrenched Republican power for years to come. "That year, the Republicans gained control of the state legislature for the first time since Reconstruction. That new majority then redrew Texas congressional districts in a way that favored the Republicans," Feldmann writes. "In the next election, 2004, Republicans defeated five Democratic incumbents in the US House."
  • He Should've Gotten a Longer Sentence, writes John Nichols at The Nation: "When so many politicians walk away unscathed from so many congressional crimes, it may seem harsh to suggest that three years in jail and ten years of probation is a light sentence. But the man who proudly referred to himself as 'The Hammer'--a reference to his ability to force other Republicans to abandon their principles in order to deliver for corporate paymasters--did not merely take money in return for corrupting the governing process. He used that money to subvert democracy itself --a far greater crime."
  • Are You Kidding? DeLay Doesn't Deserve This  "The man who should be on trial in Texas is Ronnie Earle, the unethical Travis County prosecutor who went after DeLay as part of a political vendetta," write the editors of National Review. "For [a] routine act of campaign financing, DeLay was charged with and convicted of criminal money laundering, a crime defined by knowingly using the proceeds of criminal activity. Since these contributions were all legal, the most basic element of this supposed crime could not be met; nonetheless, Earle drove the case forward in one of the most outrageous prosecutorial abuses of criminal law that we have seen in decades."
  • I'm Sure He'll Be Fine, writes David Dayen at Fire Dog Lake: "I'd expect an appeal, so whether or not DeLay sees jail time right away depends on the judge’s decision to allow his release on bond. ... Prosecutors wanted at least 10 years in prison, so DeLay got off relatively light." The AP adds that DeLay will likely be free for "moths or even years" as the appeal goes through.
  • Some Great Karma Here, writes Dennis DiClaudio at Comedy Central: "I'd like to think that, with a little help, a convicted criminal this guy might just be able to turn his life around, become rehabilitated and rejoin the outside world as a useful member of society. I'd like to believe that. But DeLay spent so much of his time in office voting against rehabilitation bills that he kinda convinced me. Good thing he voted for all those extra prison cells, though, huh? Now he can really stretch out!"
  • Technically, He Should Go to Jail, writes Brian Doherty at Reason: "Undoubtedly DeLay as a former leading congressman is a criminal. Whether this particular interpretation of a law blocking free support and expression in politics is a proper bludgeon, I'd say no."
  • I Just Can't Believe It, writes Charles Kuffner at Off the Kuff: "Gotta admit, I didn't expect DeLay to get jail time--I figure it'd be probation all the way. But then I didn’t really expect him to get convicted, either. I think I need to start not expecting to win the Lottery."