A judge has granted the special prosecutors' motion to move Attorney General Ken Paxton's trial out of Collin County. His order stated that he would decide where to move it at a later date.
Paxton was indicted in the summer of 2015 by a Collin County grand jury on two counts of securities fraud over his dealings with a McKinney tech start-up named Servergy.
Tarrant County District Judge George Gallagher, who is presiding over the case, issued several rulings at about noon on Thursday.
He denied a defense motion to dismiss the cases. The Paxton legal team has alleged there was prosecutorial misconduct during grand jury proceedings. He also denied the special prosecutor's motion to delay the trial from its May 1 start date. The special prosecutors had sought to delay the trial because of the ongoing legal battle related to payments to them.
The judge’s ruling comes after a lengthy closed door hearing Thursday that delved into the circumstances and evidence surrounding the Collin County grand jury indictment of Paxton in the summer of 2015. Paxton’s legal team has contended that there were irregularities surrounding the grand jury.
At the conclusion of their hearing, he put both sides under a gag order.
The special prosecutor sought to move the case of out of Collin County because he contended there had been an orchestrated, unprecedented effort to taint the county’s jury pool.
In a hearing last month, prosecutors notified the court and the defense that there would be two trials. They plan to try Paxton first on the third-degree failure to register as an investment advisor indictment. Then they plan to immediately try him on the twin first-degree securities fraud cases.
Prosecutors have said they plan to do that because there is nothing in common with them except the defendant.
Paxton is accused of convincing two investors -- including Republican State Rep. Byron Cook, a former friend and roommate of Paxton’s -- to put money into the company without telling them that he was being paid a commission by the company.
The failure to register charge is connected to Paxton's friend and campaign donor Fritz Mowery, a McKinney investment adviser, to whom Paxton referred clients without telling them that he'd been getting hefty commissions. Paxton’s attorneys contended that since the investment firm was registered with the SEC, then Paxton wasn’t required to register with the state securities board.
A Dallas-based appeals court recently halted about $200,000 in payments as they consider a lawsuit filed by a Collin County taxpayer. The commissioners court has already paid about $300,000 to the three special prosecutors.
Each of them is being paid an hourly fee of $300, a rate set by Collin County District Judge Scott Becker when the investigation started in 2015. Several commissioners have been outraged at the hefty legal tab and changes recently went into effect to change the county’s fee structure to prevent it from happening again.