By Paul J. Weber, Associated Press
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s hopes of avoiding trial on criminal securities fraud charges all but vanished Wednesday when a court rejected his third attempt at dismissing indictments that have shadowed nearly his entire time in office.
Paxton, a Republican who was indicted eight months after winning his 2014 election in a landslide, signaled he isn’t giving up. His attorneys said they anticipate asking the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to reconsider its decision, though seldom are such requests granted.
A trial for Paxton would likely begin next year. He has pleaded not guilty to accusations of misleading wealthy investors he personally recruited in 2011 for a high-tech startup called Servergy Inc., which allegedly paid Paxton with 100,000 shares.
A federal judge, however, met those allegations with skepticism last week. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission had filed a civil lawsuit against Paxton that mirrored his criminal case, but U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant threw out those charges Friday, saying federal regulators lacked evidence of Paxton duping investors.
“The charges against Ken Paxton are without merit. A federal court, following a lower legal standard, ruled that the fraud charges were baseless,” Paxton attorney Philip Hilder said.
The collapse of the civil case gave Paxton a long-sought court victory over the accusations that have marred his political rise. Among those he allegedly misled was a fellow Republican lawmaker who at the time served with Paxton in the Texas Legislature.
Mazzant “conditionally granted” the dismissal of the SEC charges after concluding that Paxton was under no obligation to tell investors he was being paid by Servergy. Mazzant gave the SEC two weeks to bring new arguments against Paxton.
But three criminal courts in Texas have decided the indictments are sound enough to let the case proceed to trial. The latest court to reject Paxton is the same Republican-dominated panel that earlier this year threw out felony abuse-of-power charges against former Gov. Rick Perry.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals gave no explanation in rejecting Paxton’s request Wednesday.
“Today’s ruling marks an end to Mr. Paxton’s almost yearlong attempt to avoid being judged by a jury of his peers. We look forward to going to trial and seeking justice on behalf of the people of Texas,” special prosecutor Brian Wice said.
Paxton has spent most of his 22 months on the job under felony indictment. The allegations have hounded Paxton while building his profile nationally, leading lawsuits against the Obama administration over immigration, transgender rights and Syrian refugees.