Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton Reaches Deal to Avoid Criminal Trial

Texas AG Ken Paxton Strikes Agreement to Avert Criminal Prosecution

Nearly nine years following his indictment on felony security fraud charges, Ken Paxton, the Attorney General of Texas, struck a deal with prosecutors on Tuesday, sidestepping a criminal trial that was scheduled for the following month. The agreement, disclosed by both the prosecution and Paxton’s legal team during a Houston hearing, stops short of an admission of guilt but mandates Paxton to pay almost $300,000 in restitution, enroll in legal ethics courses, and contribute 100 hours of community service.

During the hearing, Judge Andrea Beall, who presided over the case, posed questions but noted that the arrangement was a mutual decision between the involved parties, leaving the court without the authority to obstruct it. “No judge can compel a prosecutor to introduce evidence or summon witnesses,” Judge Beall remarked. “This court holds no jurisdiction over this agreement,” she continued, before confirming with Paxton, who remained silent in the courtroom, that the signature on the document was indeed his.

“Yes, it is,” Paxton confirmed.

For Paxton, a three-term Republican incumbent, this deal represents yet another triumph against adversaries who have long wished for his legal predicaments to culminate in his political downfall. Last year, Paxton weathered an impeachment by his Republican peers in the Texas House, following separate allegations of corruption and abuse of power levied by his former senior aides at the attorney general’s office.

Dan Cogdell, Paxton’s attorney, expressed on Tuesday that the attorney general was relieved to put the securities fraud case behind him. He emphasized that the agreement was not a “plea bargain” and did not signify any wrongdoing on Paxton’s part. “He didn’t plead; there is no admission of guilt,” Cogdell stated during a press conference after the hearing. “There will never be an admission of guilt because he is not guilty.”

This deal concludes a legal battle that has dragged on for nearly a decade, with the case experiencing repeated delays, jurisdictional changes across Texas counties, and finally being slated for trial in Houston — a significant distance from Paxton’s stronghold of Collin County, north of Dallas. It was here in 2015 that a grand jury indicted him, and where Paxton has established deep political connections.

The charges, encompassing two counts of felony securities fraud, originated from Paxton’s actions while serving as a member of the Texas House of Representatives, prior to his election as attorney general. Paxton was accused of misleading investors in 2011 into investing in a Dallas-area technology company, without disclosing his commission from their investments. The investors included Paxton’s friends and a fellow state representative at the time. Additionally, Paxton faced charges for failing to register with the state securities board.

Some allegations lingered over Paxton’s initial campaign for attorney general in 2014, but his indictment came several months into his tenure as the state’s chief legal officer. Due to his political connections, the local district attorney in Collin County recused himself, appointing two special prosecutors instead. The case stalled for years as Paxton’s legal team contested the trial’s venue and the compensation for the special prosecutors.

Brian Wice, one of the special prosecutors, remarked in an interview that the Tuesday deal was “the fair, right, and just thing for both sides.” “The question wasn’t about winning,” Wice added. “It was about whether we upheld our oath to seek justice, and we believe we did.”

Supporters of Paxton, including Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, lauded the agreement on Tuesday. Patrick, who oversaw Paxton’s acquittal during the impeachment trial by the Republican-dominated Texas Senate, drew parallels between the deal and the impeachment proceedings. “This bears a striking resemblance to the impeachment debacle,” Patrick stated. “The political hit squad in the Texas House failed again in their persecution of Ken Paxton.”

Cogdell, representing Paxton, suggested that both the impeachment and the securities fraud charges were politically motivated. “They were shots fired from different grassy knolls,” he said in an interview. Cogdell believed Paxton would have been acquitted but accepted the deal due to the uncertainties of a jury trial.

Paxton has 18 months to fulfill the terms of the deal. Failure to do so could reignite the criminal case, with no further delays, as Judge Beall warned, promising a “very speedy trial” if necessary.