Texas’ Attorney General Ken Paxton could face first-degree felony charges after admitting a civil violation, according to reports.
The Dallas Morning News has reported on how a special prosecutor is to ask a Collin County grand jury to indict Paxton on first-degree felony charges of violating state securities law.
The report quoted Kent Schaffer, a Houston defense attorney, who said a Texas Rangers investigation of Paxton revealed that the “attorney general broke laws beyond what he admitted last year, when he was fined $1,000 by the State Securities Board.”
He intends to present the evidence to a grand jury asking whether Paxton committed a first-degree felony. “We have a sufficient amount of evidence. Whether it leads to a criminal indictment or not is up to the grand jury,” he said.
The attorney general is reported to be readying himself for a legal fight. He has hired former federal Judge Joe Kendall to help with his defense, according to sources.
There is a wide range of punishments for a first-degree felony but it can lead to life imprisonment or five to 99 years, as well as a fine of up to $10,000.
Last year during his campaign for office, Paxton admitted to the Texas State Securities Board that while he was in the Legislature, he solicited clients for a friend’s investment firm without being registered with the state. At the time he paid a $1,000 fine and was reprimanded by the board. The clients were solicited while Paxton was serving as a Republican state representative for a Collin County district. The criminal violations issue has yet to be addressed, although Paxton described the matter as an administrative error.
However, the watchdog group Texans for Public Justice has called for an investigation into whether Paxton broke any criminal laws. Collin County’s district attorney, Greg Willis, has now said that “appropriate investigative agencies, including the Texas Rangers” should handle allegations that Paxton violated state securities laws.
Paxton is not the only high ranking official in Texas to face criminal action over the last year.
In 2014, former state governor Rick Perry faced an unusual criminal investigation into whether he abused his authority, a case that legal experts said was almost unprecedented in modern Texas history.
A grand jury was impaneled to consider a watchdog group’s complaint alleging the Republican governor may have violated Texas law by withholding money from a prosecutorial unit because its Democratic district attorney would not resign after pleading guilty to drunken driving.
Mr. Perry later vetoed $7.5 million in funding for the Travis County Public Integrity Unit, which investigates political corruption investigations, in the wake of the drunken-driving arrest of Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg.
Texans for Public Justice was again involved in Perry’s subsequent indictment. The group claimed that Mr. Perry’s actions “likely constituted coercion and bribery,” reported the Wall Street Journal.
The complaint initially went to Ms. Lehmberg, who recused herself, citing a conflict of interest. San Antonio state judge Bert Richardson assigned the matter to a special prosecutor.
Alleged crimes such as these brought against high ranking Texan officials are extremely complicated matters often involving obscure areas of the criminal law. However, the potential sanctions against those involved can often be very severe.