HOUSTON (CBSDFW.COM) - A Harris County State District Judge ruled Friday, Oct. 23, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton should be tried for felony securities fraud in his home county, Collin County, reversing a years-old decision that the state's top lawyer should not face a jury in the North Texas region where he and his wife are deeply connected in political circles.
A statement from Paxton's office said, "Judge Luong affirmed Judge Johnson's rationale for transferring the case back to Collin County, namely that State District Judge George Gallagher of Ft. Worth was without jurisdiction to initially transfer the case from Collin County to Harris County."
Paxton was indicted in 2015 but has yet to go to trial on charges he persuaded investors to buy stock in a technology firm without disclosing that he would be compensated for it.
Paxton, who would face five to 99 years in prison if convicted, has pleaded not guilty.
Even though re-elected in 2018, he has spent the bulk of his five years in office under an indictment that accuses him of improperly steering investors toward a tech startup without disclosing that he was being paid by the company.
A civil fraud case filed against Paxton by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission was dismissed in March 2017.
Paxton's office released statements from three of his attorneys on the matter.
Dan Cogdell of the Cogdell Law Firm applauded Judge Jason Luong's decision, saying, "We are gratified by Judge Luong's ruling and look forward to getting Mr. Paxton's case back on track. This case has gone on far too long. It has literally been pending longer than President Trump has been in office. Years have been spent by the Special Prosecutors appealing their interim fee payments. I have been around a long time and have never seen a case stalled due to fee issues in criminal cases."
Philip Hilder of the Hilder Law Firm called on the Special Prosecutors to withdraw their appeal of the order transferring the case back to Collin County, saying, "We now have two separate judges saying that the case needs to be returned to Collin County for trial – I trust the Special Prosecutors will withdraw their appeal and let the case proceed."
Bill Mateja of Sheppard Mullin echoed Mr. Hilder's statements, saying, "Judge Gallagher's appointment clearly expired in January of 2017. It's incredulous that the Special Prosecutors believe Judge Gallagher had the authority to issue any rulings after that date, including his decision to transfer venue from Mr. Paxton's home in Collin County. The prosecutors need to let both Judge Johnson and Judge Luong's decisions stand and allow Mr. Paxton to have his day in court to prove his innocence."
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