The top law enforcement official in Texas turned himself into police on Monday to be booked on three felony counts, including two counts of first-degree securities fraud for offenses involving more than $100,000 each.
This comes after a months-long special investigation by an appointed prosecutor and the Texas Rangers.
Texas attorney general Ken Paxton presented himself at the Collin County courthouse, north of Dallas, for his mugshot—in a suit, without the white draped towel usually required by Collin County booking officials—and fingerprints to be taken. He was then released on a $35,000 bond.
Paxton is accused of cheating complainants out of more than $600,000, according to the Houston Chronicle. Complainants against Paxton include his former colleague in the Texas legislature, Rep. Byron Cook (R-Corsicana), who says Paxton defrauded him of more than $100,000 and misrepresented himself as an investor in a McKinney technology company called Servergy.
Become a subscriber
Press freedoms are under attack now, more than ever.
The Texas Republican Party issued a statement calling the investigation a “sloppy” partisan effort led by “liberal interest groups.”
The left-leaning watchdog organization Texans For Public Justice filed an initial complaint against Paxton last year in Travis County, home to the state capitol and Texas’ Public Integrity Unit (PIU), before Paxton was elected attorney general. Officials at the PIU said that because Paxton’s alleged financial crimes occurred in Collin County, the PIU couldn’t take the case.
The Collin County district attorney, a close friend and business partner of Paxton’s, then declined to investigate Paxton, eventually recusing himself so that special prosecutors and the Texas Rangers could take on the investigation.
Paxton has already once admitted to violating federal securities law and paid a $1,000 fine to the state securities board in May 2014.
The Texas Democratic Party called for Paxton’s resignation on Monday afternoon, with party chairman Gilberto Hinojosa asking Paxton to “spare Texas the embarrassment of a drawn-out legal fight in the public eye.”
Paxton’s first-degree felony charges carry penalties of five to 99 years in prison, but the attorney general is allowed to hold on to his position as the state’s highest-ranking law enforcement officer while his case proceeds through the courts, which could take years. If Paxton is convicted, he would lose his license to practice law—something that an attorney general in Texas is not technically required to have in order to hold that office.
If Paxton voluntarily or forcibly resigns his office, the governor will appoint a replacement, who must be approved by the GOP-led state senate.
Paxton’s office is currently conducting an “investigation” of Texas Planned Parenthood affiliates’ fetal tissue donation practices, even though Texas Planned Parenthood affiliates do not participate in fetal tissue donations.
Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who is vying for the Republican presidential nomination, is also facing charges for abusing his power as a public official after cutting funding to the PIU in 2013. Texans For Public Justice also initiated the complaint that led to Perry’s indictment.