AUSTIN, Texas - Texas’ highest criminal court ruled Wednesday that the securities fraud case against now-suspended Attorney General Ken Paxton’s should remain in Houston, settling a key issue in the 8-year-old case as Paxton faces an impeachment trial in the Texas Senate this summer.
The Texas Criminal Court of Appeals, in a 6-3 ruling, overturned lower-court decisions that said Paxton’s trial had been improperly moved from Collin County, where he lives, to Harris County because the trial judge had lost jurisdiction over the matter.
However, the Texas Constitution and state law protected the judge’s authority over the case, the court ruled.
"We’re gratified but not surprised that the Court recognized that this defendant must stand trial before a Harris County jury and a judge who will follow the law," prosecutor Brian Wice said.
Paxton’s defense team did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In 2015, a Collin County grand jury indicted Paxton on two counts of securities fraud, a first-degree felony with a punishment of up to 99 years in prison, and one count of failing to register with state securities regulators, a third-degree felony with a maximum 10 years in prison.
The securities fraud charges relate to Paxton’s efforts in 2011 to solicit investors in Servergy Inc. without disclosing that the McKinney-based tech company was paying him to promote its stock.
Paxton has said he did nothing wrong and dismissed the charges as motivated by his political rivals.
Prosecutors were able to remove the case from Collin County in 2017, arguing that they could not get a fair trial in a county that Paxton had represented during his 10 years in the Texas House and two years in the state Senate.
Paxton’s lawyers, arguing that the judge who ordered the case to Harris County had lost jurisdiction over the case, succeeded in sending the case back to Collin County in 2020, leading to appeals from prosecutors that resulted in Wednesday’s ruling.
Paxton was suspended from acting as attorney general when the Texas House voted to impeach him late last month.