Will plead not guilty
Today, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton surrendered at the Collin County Jail to be arrested and booked on three counts of felony securities law violations. Earlier, a grand jury handed down an indictment addressing Paxton’s July 2011 efforts to sell stocks on behalf of a McKinney, Texas-based corporation while he was still a member of the Texas House of Representatives.
Paxton followed in the footsteps of fellow embattled Texas politicians Tom DeLay and Rick Perry by putting on a confident smirk for his mugshot. According to local media sources, however, Paxton avoided the press after he was booked. (I don’t blame him—the Texas Democratic Party organized a rally outside the building demanding he resign on the spot.)
The New York Times explains the charges:
The charges — two counts of first-degree securities fraud and one count of third-degree failure to register — are tied to Mr. Paxton’s work soliciting clients and investors for two companies while he was a member of the Texas House of Representatives, before he was elected attorney general in November.
In the most serious charges, first-degree securities fraud, Mr. Paxton is accused of misleading investors in a technology company, Servergy Inc., which is based in McKinney, his hometown. He is accused of encouraging the investors in 2011 to put more than $600,000 into Servergy while failing to tell them he was making a commission on their investment, and misrepresenting himself as an investor in the company, said Kent A. Schaffer, one of the two special prosecutors handling the case. The group of investors were Mr. Paxton’s friends and included a colleague in the Texas House, Representative Byron Cook.
Mr. Schaffer said Mr. Paxton’s role in misleading the investors had come to light in an investigation by members of the Texas Ranger Division. Mr. Schaffer and the other special prosecutor, Brian Wice, are Houston defense lawyers appointed by a judge to act, effectively, as district attorneys in the case.
In a statement, Mr. Paxton’s lawyer, Joe Kendall, said the judge in the case has “specifically instructed both parties to refrain from public comment on this matter, and we are honoring the Judge’s instructions.” Before the indictment, a spokesman for Mr. Paxton, Anthony Holm, was outspoken in defending Mr. Paxton. He characterized the case as a political witch hunt, suggested that an anti-Paxton blogger had engaged in jury tampering, and questioned the special prosecutors’ eagerness for news coverage and their impartiality as criminal defense lawyers.
The first degree felony charges carry a combined potential sentence of 99 years in prison; the third degree charge could tack on an additional 10 years. If convicted, Paxton would have to surrender his law license, and step down from his position as Attorney General.
Although there are similarities between Paxton’s case and that of former Governor Rick Perry—the gleeful Democrats, the arguably questionable investigative tactics—Paxton’s opponents have more red meat to chew on this time around.
From the Wall Street Journal:
Mr. Paxton was reprimanded last year by the Texas State Securities Board and paid a civil fine of $1,000 in connection with some of the alleged securities violations, which involved soliciting clients for Mowery Capital Management LLC, a firm based in McKinney, Texas. He admitted at that time that he didn’t register with the state securities board, calling it an administrative error.
But a liberal watchdog group, Texans for Public Justice, filed a complaint last year, saying the punishment was insufficient and that the 52-year-old conservative shou ld face criminal prosecution.
There’s substance, but there’s also the involvement of a progressive group known for going after Republicans with pitchforks raised high. The messaging coming out of Texas from those backing Paxton is less enthusiastic than what we saw backing Perry after his indictment. The Republican Party of Texas offered a tepid defense:
“There’s a reason why Texans have warily observed this news. Some of the outrageous events surrounding this sloppy process certainly do not typify the level of quality that Texans expect from our judicial system. Since being overwhelmingly elected by the voters of Texas, General Paxton has helped lock up child predators, investigated the odious acts of Planned Parenthood, relentlessly pushed back against an overreaching federal government, and we expect him to fight these allegations with that same zeal. Ken Paxton, like all Americans, 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.”
Local and statewide Tea Party groups, however, are offering a spirited defense of Paxton, and demanding more transparency in the investigative process.
We’ll keep you updated on the state of the AG’s legal battle as it progresses.