Texas AG Ken Paxton to Be Tried in April After Judge Denies Motion to Dismiss Case

Bill Pan
By Bill Pan
February 17, 2024Politics
Texas AG Ken Paxton to Be Tried in April After Judge Denies Motion to Dismiss Case
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks at a news conference on the U.S. Southern Border and President Joe Biden’s immigration policies, in the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, on May 12, 2021. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is poised to be tried this spring after the presiding judge rejected his request to dismiss the almost 9-year-old felony fraud charges against him.

The judge, Andrea Beall, decided on Friday that Mr. Paxton will go to trial in the case. The trial is set to start on April 15.

Mr. Paxton, who is serving his third term as Texas’ top lawyer, faces two first-degree felony charges of securities fraud, which each carries five to 99 years in prison, and a third-degree felony charge of failing to register with state securities regulators. He has denied all the charges, calling them “politically motivated.”

The years-long legal saga stemmed from allegations that Mr. Paxton sold stock of software company Servergy to two investors in July 2011 without disclosing to them that he would receive 100,000 shares of company stock in return. He has been cleared of related civil charges brought by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

The securities fraud indictments were delivered by a Collin County grand jury in August 2015, just months into Mr. Paxton’s first term as attorney general. The case has since been repeatedly delayed as the sides fought over questions such as how much the prosecutors should be paid, which judge should preside, and where the trial should be held.

Other factors that prolonged the delay included the prosecution’s successful motions to move the case from Collin to Harris County, Hurricane Harvey of 2017, the COVID-19 pandemic, and most recently, Mr. Paxton’s impeachment trial in the Texas Senate last September. Mr. Paxton was acquitted in the impeachment trial, which was related to different allegations of abuse of office.

Earlier this month, the attorney general filed a motion to dismiss his indictments, arguing that his constitutional right to a speedy trial had been violated.

During a court hearing on Friday in Houston, Mr. Paxton’s defense attorney, Dan Cogdell, blamed the prosecutors for putting off the trial for years.

“That’s what this food fight has been all about,” said Mr. Cogdell, reported Courthouse News. “Never in my 42 years of practicing law have I seen a case paused by a fee dispute.”

The prosecutors, Brian Wice and Kent Schaffer, were promised to be paid at a $300-an-hour rate by Collin County—the original venue for the case and Mr. Paxton’s home county—when they started on the case in 2015.

Collin County commissioners agreed to pay the prosecutors a first bill of $242,000 in January 2017 but voted against paying their second bill of $199,000 a year later after the trial moved to Harris County.

Home to Houston, Harris County is the most populous county in Texas and is far less Republican than Collin County, where the Republican attorney general has long lived.

Since then, the fee issue has been tied up in the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. The prosecutors are still asking the appeals court to force Collin County to pay them at the promised 300-per-hour rate and to prohibit the county from “taking any further action calculated to thwart” payment.

In November 2023, Judge Beall ruled in favor of Mr. Wice and Mr. Schaffer in their payment dispute. The prosecutors included Beall’s ruling in a new filing with the appeals court, blaming Collin County for engaging in an “incessant, transparent, and purely political ploy to derail Ken Paxton’s prosecution by defunding it.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Paxton’s lawyers claimed that the prosecutors were trying to further delay the trial.

“Once again, the Special Prosecutors are making clear that their prosecution of Ken Paxton is all about money and not justice,” Mr. Paxton’s legal team said in a statement, saying that their client “just wants his day in court” and “Yet, the Special Prosecutors seem content pushing that day further back with its dilatory sideshow of an appeal.”

At the end of Friday’s hearing, Mr. Schaffer announced that he would be stepping down from the case and replaced by Jed Silverman, a Harris County criminal defense attorney.

Mr. Cogdell argued that Mr. Wice had no authority to appoint a replacement for Mr. Schaffer. Judge Beall agreed to take up the issue at another pretrial hearing on March 20.

Speaking to reporters following the hearing, Mr. Cogdell said his client is “ready for trial” and hopeful to be acquitted.

“This thing has been pending for eight years,” he said, reported KERA News. “They want to dance. Put on your shoes, and let’s dance.”

From The Epoch Times

ntd newsletter icon
Sign up for NTD Daily
What you need to know, summarized in one email.
Stay informed with accurate news you can trust.
By registering for the newsletter, you agree to the Privacy Policy.