Texas Attorney General Booked on 3 Felony Counts
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton turned himself in to authorities in Collin County this morning. He's charged with three felonies relating to his solicitation of investments in a technology company.
He was immediately released from Collin County Jail on $35,000 bond after booking.
Two of the charges — first-degree felony securities fraud — carry the possibility of hefty jail sentences.
A statement released by Paxton defense attorney Joe Kendall indicates that Paxton will plead not guilty to the charges and will undergo a jury trial, which would be presided over by Tarrant County Judge George Gallagher.
Paxton's legal troubles began last year, when the then-state Senator was accused of soliciting investments for a private company, without registering with the State Securities Board.
Paxton said it was a simple mistake and paid a $1,000 fine.
But after he was elected Attorney General, a criminal complaint was filed by Texans for Public Justice, a follow-the-money political watchdog group. Those complaints were originally filed in Travis County with the Public Integrity Unit, an agency with jurisdiction over government corruption cases.
The Travis County DA said the case would need to be investigated by Collin County, since that's where the alleged crimes took place. The Collin County DA is a long-time friend and business partner of Paxton's, so he recused himself from the matter.
That led to the appointment of two special prosecutors, Kent Schaffer and Brian Wice, to take over the case. The complaint was investigated by the Texas Rangers. Evidence was presented to a Collin County grand jury last week, which handed up the three indictments that were released today.
Current Texas Governor Greg Abbott released a short statement about the case this afternoon. Abbott says that he believes "everyone is entitled to due process under the law. As a former judge, I recognize this is the first step in a lengthy process and will respect that process as it moves forward.”
Many Texas Democrats, including the party’s executive director Crystal Perkins, say Paxton should resign.
“The people of Texas deserve better. It is not okay for the top law enforcement official to be indicted for criminal activity,” Perkins says.
Most top Republicans have remained silent, though the Texas Republican Party released a statement this morning after the booking. Party spokesperson Aaron Whitehead criticizes the judicial process around this case, referring to it as "sloppy." Paxton, he says, "deserves to have his say in a court of law, rather than be judged in a court of public opinion that is presided over by liberal interest groups."
But political reporter Harvey Kronberg of the Quorum Report says that the Republican stance could change depending on how the case evolves.
“This is obviously a major distraction and a cause of some concern fairly high up the food chain, because we still have redistricting pending. We have voter ID pending. We’ve got EPA lawsuits. And a wounded attorney general causes concern at multiple levels of leadership,” Kronberg says.
Paxton can legally remain in office while under indictment, as the case could take years to run through trials and appeals.
This post has been updated throughout the day.