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Judge in Paxton case will rule on pretrial issues on Thursday

The judge in the securities fraud case against Attorney General Ken Paxton says he will rule by noon Thursday on a number of major pretrial issues.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton during a news conference on Jan. 12, 2017.

Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout.

The judge in the securities fraud case against Attorney General Ken Paxton says he will rule by noon Thursday on a number of major pretrial issues. 

Judge George Gallagher said Wednesday he will rule on motions to dismiss the case, change the venue and delay the trial until the prosecutors can get paid.

Paxton is accused of misleading investors in a company from before his time as attorney general. The trial is set to begin May 1

Gallagher also said Wednesday he was “very concerned” about the contents of a certain exhibit that had been submitted, and that he had been “totally unaware” of an aspect of it.

The exhibit was an invitation for a fundraiser for Paxton's campaign for attorney general; the event's host committee included a number of Collin County officials, from the district attorney and the county judge to four county commissioners. 

“We have a problem here,” Gallagher said. “We may have an ethical problem.”

But it's unclear exactly why the invitation would be concerning to Gallagher. The fundraiser was in December 2013, more than a year-and-a-half before Paxton was indicted. 

It wasn’t the only concern Gallagher expressed. He also instructed both sides to stop making public statements in the high-profile case, saying, “We’re not going to have any more quotes to the press."

The order came the same morning the Dallas Morning News published an interview with Paxton in which he spoke critically of the prosecutors. Asked by one of the prosecutors, Brian Wice, if the gag order also applied to Paxton, Gallagher said he trusts the attorney general knows how to conduct himself with the media.

Gallagher spoke at the end of a hearing in which both sides continued to haggle over whether the trial should be moved out of Collin County. The prosecutors have said a venue change is necessary because Paxton and his allies have tainted the jury pool in Collin County, where he lives.

Paxton’s lawyers called as a witness Glen Bolger, a top GOP pollster who worked for Paxton’s 2014 campaign for attorney general. Bolger presented the results of a poll he had done for Paxton’s side that showed jury-eligible adults in Collin County are aware of the Paxton case — over half — but three-fourths do not have an opinion about whether he’s guilty. 

“If there’s been a campaign” to taint the jury pool, Bolger said, "it’s been pretty darn ineffective.”

The prosecutors sought to cast doubt on Bolger’s methodology and experience, calling into question, for example, how often he does polls like the one he did for Paxton’s lawyers. Bolger admitted such surveys have been a “very, very, very small percentage” of his work and the last one he conducted may have been 15 years ago.

For the first two hours of the hearing Wednesday, members of the media were not allowed into the courtroom. A spokeswoman for the judge had said Thursday part of the hearing would be closed to the public because it “concerns grand jury actions.” 

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Courts Criminal justice Ken Paxton