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State Rep. Reynolds Guilty of Ambulance-Chasing

State Rep. Ron Reynolds, D-Missouri City, convicted of five counts of illegal solicitation of legal clients last week, was sentenced Monday to one year in jail and a $4,000 fine, but plans to appeal the verdict and will seek reelection in 2016..

Rep. Ron Reynolds, D-Missouri City, during a House Environmental Regulations Committee meeting on April 16, 2013.

[Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect the sentencing.]

State Rep. Ron Reynolds, D-Missouri City, convicted of five counts of illegal solicitation of legal clients last week, was sentenced Monday to one year in jail and a $4,000 fine.

Reynolds was in the Montgomery County Jail Monday night, but planned to seek release on bond while he appeals his conviction, said state Rep. Harold Dutton, D-Houston, who assisted Reynolds during the sentencing phase of his trial. 

Reynolds' conviction was first reported by the Houston Chronicle. In an interview on Saturday, Reynolds told the Tribune that he will appeal the case and that he will continue his bid for reelection to another term in the Texas House.

He said the jury disregarded evidence demonstrating that he did not know cases referred to him by Robert Valdez Sr. had been illegally solicited. He said that will be the basis of his appeal.

“It’s really a shock that the judges allowed the jury to convict me of that,” he said. “There wasn’t any evidence that would show I knew Robert Valdez was soliciting those clients.”

The sentencing phase of his trial began Friday, after a jury declared him guilty on five counts of misdemeanor barratry. Class A misdemeanors carry penalties of up to $4,000 in fines and a year in jail. 

Reynolds was initially convicted of misdemeanor ambulance-chasing charges in November 2014, but that verdict was overturned after a judge declared a mistrial. Reynolds was indicted again on related charges last summer, and this week’s trial was the result. Reynolds is from Fort Bend County, but the trial was held in Montgomery County, where Valdez lived when he solicited the clients for the eight lawyers.

A conviction would not require Reynolds to resign from the Legislature. Candidates are currently filing for the 2016 elections, making this a particularly vulnerable time for incumbents hoping to avoid serious electoral challenges.

"I wouldn’t be surprised if someone ran against me,” said Reynolds, adding that he filed for reelection last Monday. “Do I think I might get a primary opponent because of it? Maybe. That would not surprise me.”

He said, however, that he is confident he will win both the appeal and another term in the Texas House. 

Reynolds was arrested in a sting operation in 2013 that netted eight attorneys who were accused of paying someone to bring them cases involving people involved in automobile accidents. Only he went to trial; the other attorneys accepted plea arrangements.

Reynolds joined the Texas House in January 2011 and is currently serving his third term there. The House Democratic Caucus named him freshman of the year at the end of the 2011 session.

Reynolds expected a different verdict, but said Saturday that the table was tilted against him. “I think it was based on, ‘I’m a Democratic state rep in a red county. And then you’ve got a lawyer and the only thing more unpopular than lawyers are politicians.”

He said he didn’t want to inject race into it — Reynolds is black and faced a six-person jury with five whites and one black on it — but said others have said that was a disadvantage to his case.

He said he'll hire an appeals lawyer to handle the next phase, having represented himself in this trial.

“I’m firing my lawyer,” he joked.

“I was looking forward to closure yesterday,” he added. “But the fight goes on.” 

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State government Ron Reynolds Texas House of Representatives Texas Legislature