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Prosecutor urges appeals court to make venue decision in Ken Paxton case

The criminal fraud cases against the attorney general have lingered for nearly six years as the two sides battle over the judge, venue and pay.

Updated at 12:35 p.m. with comments from Ken Paxton on the Mark Davis show.

AUSTIN — The special prosecutor pursuing the 6-year-old fraud charges against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has urged the Houston appeals court rule on several pending matters, noting he has been waiting more than half a year for a decision.

On Monday, Brian Wice reminded a three-judge panel of the First Court of Appeals that his request to reconsider a decision to move Paxton’s cases out of Harris County has been pending for seven months, and that he requested a hearing three months ago.

Paxton was indicted for securities fraud nearly six years ago, he added, but the Republican elected official has yet to face trial.

“Viewed against this backdrop, it is altogether reasonable and proper for the panel to devote thirty minutes to the novel issues that impact Texas jurisprudence in this matter at oral argument,” Wice wrote. “Argument may help resolve whatever questions have prevented the resolution of this petition.”

Paxton’s lawyers did not immediately respond to a request for comment but have expressed their client’s wishes to seek a fair and speedy trial.

In June 2020, the Houston judge presiding over the cases at the time ordered them moved back to Collin County, site of the alleged crimes. In doing so, the judge handed a major win to Paxton, who has lived in McKinney for decades and enjoys support in the reliably red county. A second judge agreed.

But the prosecutors appealed the move, saying that the felony prosecutions of Paxton belong in Harris County and the judge’s decision divested “the citizens of Harris County of their right to determine if Ken Paxton is a felon.” The appeals court put the case on hold while it mulled the issue.

The cases against Paxton have been repeatedly delayed since he was indicted in July 2015, as the two sides fight over the proper trial venue, appropriate judge and how much the prosecutors should be paid. Hurricane Harvey also delayed the proceedings.

Paxton is accused of duping investors to buy into a North Texas technology startup called Servergy Inc. without disclosing he was being compensated by the CEO. He faces two first-degree felony fraud charges based on these allegations, which each carry a maximum penalty of 99 years in prison, and one third-degree fraud charge for failing to register with the state as an investment adviser representative.

Paxton successfully fought federal civil fraud charges arising from these same allegations twice.

In addition to his indictments, Paxton is now being sued by several former employees who claim he retaliated against them after they accused him of abuse of office and bribery. They say Paxton used his position to help Nate Paul, an Austin real estate developer and campaign donor, in exchange for help remodeling his home and a job for a woman with whom Paxton allegedly had an affair. The FBI is reportedly investigating these allegations.

Paxton was reelected in 2018 and helped his wife, Angela Paxton, secured a seat in the Texas Senate that year.

On Tuesday, Paxton discussed the indictments with radio show host Mark Davis.

“I’m supposed to have the opportunity to be tried in front of my peers,” Paxton said, claiming prosecutors don’t have anyone to testify against him. “This idea of a speedy trial you’re supposed to have under the Constitution, it’s not happening because, I mean, they don’t have a case. If they had a case, it wouldn’t take six years. So this is all political.”

Davis also asked about the FBI probe.

“I was investigating the FBI at the time, which is kind of weird now that they’re investigating me for investigating them — because that’s what this is. And there is a lot to that that I think is not right,” Paxton said, apparently referring to his decision to look into allegations from Paul that the FBI violated his rights when its agents searched his home in 2019. “If I could have finished my investigation, we could have at least found the truth, which I think would have led to some other questions.”

“It’s unfortunate the way the system is working and it’s unfortunate that you’ll never get good coverage out of the media as to actually what happened,” he added. “So you can just now accuse people of things and suddenly you’re guilty.”

Lauren McGaughy. Lauren is an investigative reporter based in Austin where she focuses on government accountability, criminal justice and LGBTQ issues. Before joining the investigative team, she covered Texas politics for The News and Houston Chronicle, and Louisiana politics for The New Orleans Times-Picayune. She loves cats and comic books and cooks a mean steak.

lmcgaughy@dallasnews.com /laurenrmcgaughy @lmcgaughy https://www.instagram.com/laurenmcgaughy/ LinkedIn Iconhttps://www.linkedin.com/in/lauren-mcgaughy-05b49812/
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