Paxton moves closer to trial in criminal fraud case

The Texas attorney general's lawyers recently let an appellate deadline pass and say they are preparing for his trial on three felony counts involving securities transactions in his private business dealings.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton entered a federal courthouse in Sherman on Sept. 2, 2016. Paxton's lawyers argued in a hearing that the federal civil fraud case against him should be dismissed.

Lawyers for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton are no longer asking to have a state securities fraud case against him dismissed, moving him closer to a trial on the criminal charges.

Paxton's legal team confirmed Tuesday that it was getting ready for a trial, five days after a deadline passed for it to try one more time to persuade the state's highest criminal court to look at the case. They apparently passed on that opportunity.

"We are preparing for trial in the state matter and have confidence in the strength of our case," Paxton lawyer Philip Hilder said in a statement.

Paxton is accused of misleading investors in a company from before his time as attorney general, part of a legal saga that has stretched on for more than a year. He faces similar civil charges at the federal level, and while that case was dismissed last month, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has since rebooted it by filing amended allegations.

Paxton's lawyers were nonetheless heartened by the initial dismissal of the SEC case, saying it did not bode well for the state case. Hilder reiterated that optimism Tuesday as he acknowledged the looming trial on criminal charges, which could begin as early as next spring.

"The federal judge’s recent dismissal of the SEC case highlights the challenges the special prosecutors will have, as the fraud allegations in the dismissed SEC case mirror those in the state case," Hilder said. "Moreover, the burden of proof in the criminal case is far greater than that of the SEC case."

In the state case, Paxton's lawyers had until Thursday to appeal the Court of Criminal Appeals' decision last month not to examine the charges. The deadline came and went without Paxton's team taking action, despite initially saying it planned to. 

A Collin County grand jury indicted Paxton last year on two first-degree felony counts of securities fraud and a third-degree felony count of failure to register. If convicted, Paxton faces 5 to 99 years in prison. 

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