Texas Attorney General May Face Felony Charge

     McKINNEY, Texas (CN) – A criminal securities fraud investigation of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton found evidence of wrongdoing that may lead to first-degree felony charges, a special prosecutor said Wednesday.
     Special prosecutor Kent Schaffer said Wednesday night that a Texas Rangers investigation revealed that laws were broken beyond the admissions Paxton made to the Texas State Securities Board in May 2014.
     Schaffer said he will ask a Collin County grand jury to indict Paxton on first-degree felony charges of violating state securities law.
     The State Securities Board fined Paxton $1,000 last year . He admitted that while he was in the Legislature he solicited clients for a friend’s investment firm – Mowrey Capital Management – a without being registered as an investment adviser. He paid the fine and was reprimanded by the Securities Board.
     Texans for Public Justice, a government watchdog, demanded a criminal investigation. Travis County District Attorney Mary Lehmberg’s Public Integrity Unit referred the case to Dallas and Collin counties.
     Dallas County District Attorney Susan Hawk declined the case and Collin County District Attorney Greg Willis asked to be recused, so Schaffer and attorney Brian W. Wice, both of Houston, were appointed special prosecutors.
     Schaffer told ABC-affiliate WFAA on Wednesday that the Texas Rangers found new evidence of securities fraud, in excess of $100,000.
     “The Rangers went out to investigate one thing, and they came back with information on something else,” Schaffer said. “It’s turned into something different than when they started.”
     A first-degree felony is punishable by up to 99 years or life in state prison, and a $10,000 fine.
     Schaffer said he and Wice will ask a Collin County grand jury to charge Paxton within weeks, and will call at least eight witnesses. Schaffer said he anticipates pursuing third-degree felony failure-to-register charges as well.
     “We have a sufficient amount of evidence,” Schaffer told The Dallas Morning News. “Whether it leads to a criminal indictment or not is up to the grand jury.”
     Paxton could not be reached for comment Wednesday night. He was widely criticized for issuing a non-binding opinion on Sunday advising county clerks and judges that they need not issue same-sex marriage licenses if it would violate their religious beliefs.
     The opinion letter came two days after the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges struck down several states’ gay marriage bans and made it legal nationwide.
     Paxton used the occasion to call the Supreme Court “lawless.”
     Paxton, a Republican, was elected to his first term as attorney general last year. His predecessor in the office, Greg Abbott, was elected governor.

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