Ken Paxton plans to keep AG post as criminal trial nears

Ken Paxton (KXAN Photo)
Ken Paxton (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Texas’ top law enforcement official says he has no intention of leaving office, despite failed attempts to have a string of criminal charges against him dropped.

In an exclusive interview with KXAN’s “State of Texas: In-depth” Host Josh Hinkle, the State Attorney General maintained his innocence when asked about voters’ faith in him as the statewide-elected official heads for trial.

“We are fighting that battle in court, I’m innocent,” Paxton said.

“We are fighting that battle in court, I’m innocent,” Paxton said. “[I will] continue to do my job every day. That’s what I was elected to do.”

In the coming days, Paxton is expected to hand down an opinion on the legality of daily fantasy sports in Texas – something many see as a form of gambling, which is illegal in Texas. He is also set to launch a statewide human trafficking unit on Thursday.

“I don’t plan on stepping down,” he told KXAN. “We’re going to win this case and move forward. Just know that we’re fighting it, and we’re going to win.”

Paxton faces two first-degree counts of securities fraud and one third-degree count of failing to register with the State Securities Board. The counts date back to 2011 and 2012 while he was a member of the Texas House, representing District 70 in Collin County. He is accused of funneling clients to a friend’s investment firm without saying he would be receiving a commission for the referrals and for steering others to invest in a North Texas tech company without revealing that company was paying him.

As a Republican candidate for Attorney General in 2014, Paxton weathered the board’s reprimand and went on to win his current leadership post. He was fined $1,000 after admitting he failed to register as a broker when connecting clients to his friend’s firm. He has previously said it was simply an administrative error.

A watchdog group soon demanded a criminal investigation, which eventually worked its way back to Collin County where he has pleaded not guilty to the charges – one of which carries a maximum sentence of 99 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.

After failed attempts to have his charges dismissed, Paxton’s trial is on track to begin as early as late summer. State District Judge George Gallagher rejected his latest attempt in December.

Earlier this month, Paxton’s attorneys informed the judge they will appeal his ruling to the state 5th Court of Appeals in Dallas. Throughout the case, they have argued misconduct by a previous judge and the prosecution, questioned the grand jury process and challenged the constitutionality of their client’s charges.

KXAN’s interview comes just days after Collin County commissioners voted to pay more than $254,000 to the special prosecutors in the case. Gallagher ordered the commission to pay that amount for legal fees and expenses that have stacked up since last spring.

The fees have been heavily scrutinized because the county originally budgeted only $100,000 for the case. The ordered amount is also more than the county’s payment rules for lawyers appointed in first-degree felony cases – a $1,000 flat fee plus $1,000 a day during trial.

The judge cited another portion of the county’s payment rules that allows exceptions “in unusual circumstances…beyond the control of the appointed counsel.” State law requires the county appointing special prosecutors to pay their fees.

A Paxton supporter’s attempt to block the payments was recently rejected. His civil suit suggested the expenses were an illegal use of taxpayer money.

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