McKINNEY, Texas (CN) – The judge presiding over the criminal securities case against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton changed venue Tuesday to Houston, citing convenience for attorneys on both sides.
“Harris County was selected because the lead counsel for the state and the defense are located there,” Tarrant County District Judge George Gallagher said in a written statement. “Harris County also has the facilities to accommodate the trial.”
Paxton is represented by Dan Cogdell of Houston and William Mateja with Polsinelli in Dallas.
The move comes one week after Judge Gallagher granted a motion for change of venue by special prosecutors Brian Wice, Kent Schaffer and Nicole DeBorde, all of Houston. He handed the prosecutors a victory in their claim that Paxton’s team had engaged in a “crusade” to taint the local jury pool in Collin County near Dallas.
“The parties have agreed to allow the court to transfer venue of these cases to a county that does not adjoin Collin County, Texas,” the one-page supplemental order on motion for change of venue states. “The court does not consider this agreement to constitute any waiver of the defense objections to the court changing venue and all defense objections remain overruled.”
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, while he was in the Texas House of Representatives.
Paxton was to go to trial on the failure to register charge on May 1 before being tried separately on the securities fraud charges.
On Wednesday, Gallagher scheduled jury selection and trial to begin on Sept. 11. It is expected to last for two weeks.
Paxton has steadfastly opposed attempts at moving the trial. His attorneys filed a four-page motion Tuesday asking for a new judge in Houston, declining to give written consent for Gallagher to continue presiding over the case.
“Paxton therefore requests that the court order its clerk to send a certified copy of its file to the Harris County District Clerk that a new judge may be assigned,” the motion states.