Judge Stays Put in Texas AG’s Criminal Case

McKINNEY, Texas (CN) – A Texas judge rebuked Attorney General Ken Paxton on Monday, refusing to recuse himself from Paxton’s criminal securities fraud case or to rule on Paxton’s request for a new judge, after a series of unfavorable pre-trial rulings.

State District Judge George Gallagher confirmed he will stay on the case, one week after he moved the trial from Collin County in suburban Dallas to Harris County in the Houston metropolitan area.

Gallagher granted prosecutors’ motion for change of venue two weeks ago, seemingly persuaded by arguments that Paxton’s team launched a “crusade” to taint the jury pool in Collin County.
The judge’s spokeswoman, Melody McDonald Lanier, said Gallagher “does not need” to rule on Paxton’s motion requesting a Harris County judge.

Paxton was charged by a Collin County grand jury in 2015 with a third-degree felony count of failing to register with the Texas Securities Board and two first-degree felony counts of securities fraud. If convicted he faces up to 99 years in state prison.

He is accused of failing to tell investors in McKinney-based technology firm Servergy that he would earn commissions on their money, and of lying to them that he was investing in the company himself, while he was in the Texas House of Representatives.

The judge irritated Paxton’s attorneys in February when he granted prosecutors’ request to hold two separate trials: first to try Paxton on the failure to register charge, then on the securities fraud charges.

Paxton’s first trial was set for May 1 before it was moved. Trial was reset to Sept. 11. It is expected to last for two weeks.

Gallagher cited convenience for moving the trial to Harris County, noting that special prosecutors Brian Wice, Kent Schaffer and Nicole DeBorde and defense attorney Dan Cogdell are all based in Houston.

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