The long-running joke is that Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s securities fraud criminal indictment in Collin County is old enough to start kindergarten, and will probably be starting the first grade, maybe the second, before it goes to trial.
It’s actually a bad—no, a sad joke given that the average Texan’s preliminary hearing typically takes place 10 days after your arraignment if you were arrested (20 days if not arrested) while trial usually begins no more than 180 days after arrest.
Paxton was arrested on a Tuesday in late July 2015 — six months after he took office — on two counts of securities fraud, a first degree felony, and one count of failing to register with the state securities regulators, a third degree felony.
Five years later, Paxton’s case still hasn’t gone to trial. Now his wife, Angela Paxton, is the Texas State Senator for the district where her husband was arrested, and seven of his top deputies are claiming that he needs to be investigated for bribery and abuse of office, according to a letter obtained by the Austin-American Statesmen over the weekend.
In late June, the Houston Chronicle reported that Paxton’s original felony trial would be coming back to Collin County after the venue had been changed since the prosecutors feared they couldn’t get a fair shake from the county where the Paxtons are well known.
So where is it? We don’t know. Trying to sift the court chess moves has been a downward spiral of Do what? Thankfully, the Texas Tribune has provided a helpful timeline of Paxton’s case. We’ve highlighted the key moments below:
Summer 2015 – A year after the Texas Tribune obtains documents that show Paxton wasn’t registered with the state board, Paxton is indicted by the Collin County grand jury and arrested on three felony charges. Collin County District Attorney Greg Willis, who knows Paxton, recuses himself. U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission investigates one of Paxton’s investments: Servergy, a McKinney tech firm.
Spring 2016 – Paxton’s legal battle was about a year old. A Paxton donor, Jeff Blackhard, had filed a lawsuit arguing special prosecutors were being paid too much. The Texas Ethics Commission told Paxton to stop raising money for his legal defense from out of state donors. Then the U.S. Securities Exchange and Commission struck and filed civil charges against Paxton for misleading investors in the tech company. Paxton release a video and says, No, I didn’t. He argues that the civil charges is politically motivated. About 4,500 YouTube viewers watched his defense.
Spring 2017 – About six months after news broke that wealthy donors were funding his legal defense to the tune of $329,000, Paxton fails to get his office to drop the charges and a May trial date is set, nearly two years after his initial indictment. Three months later, a federal judge throws out the U.S. Securities Exchange and Commission’s civil charges. His criminal trial is delayed, and then delayed again in October when a Harris County judge takes over.
Summer 2019 – Paxton makes another move to send prosecutors into a checkmate. After all, his donor had weakened them in a side battle over $300 per hour special prosecutor pay, which they are still fighting. So the Texas Attorney General requests that his felony case be moved back to Collin County. A Harris County trial judge considers his request.
Summer 2020 – Paxton’s request to change venues back to his hometown of Collin County was successful at first. District Judge Robert Johnson spent six months considering Paxton’s request and rules in June to return the case. But then a Houston appeals court puts Judge Johnson’s ruling on hold and reassigns Paxton’s case to Harris County District Judge Jason Luong.
Fall 2020 – A bombshell drops on Paxton’s chessboard. Seven of his top deputies accuse him of abuse of power and bribery in a scathing Oct. 1 letter that draws national media attention. Gov. Greg Abbott says he is concerned but withholds condemning him. Paxton turns it back on his deputies and claims they impeded the investigation.
Still no word about his original criminal trial and if it will indeed return to Collin County or remain in Harris County. Paxton failed to remove Judge Luong, the fourth judge assigned to his case, for conflict of interest.