HOUSTON (AP) — Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton was expected back in court Tuesday and closer than ever to standing trial on felony securities fraud charges that have shadowed the Republican for nearly a decade.

But there was no certainty the April trial was still on track. Last week, a final pretrial hearing before a Houston judge was abruptly rescheduled, and both a special prosecutor and one of Paxton’s attorneys declined comment Monday on whether the case was going forward or if a deal to settle was possible.

If convicted, Paxton could be sentenced to prison and would be disqualified from holding state office. He has long denied wrongdoing while facing an array of other legal troubles, including an ongoing FBI investigation into accusations of corruption and a historic impeachment that ended in his acquittal last year.

Tuesday’s hearing was set to take place before state District Judge Andrea Beall.

Brian Wice, a special prosecutor who has led the case from the start, and Dan Cogdell, one of Paxton’s attorneys, declined to comment.

Paxton was first indicted in 2015. But the securities fraud case has been delayed for years during pre-trial disputes over trial location in the Dallas area or Houston, and payment for the state’s special prosecutors. The prosecutors have argued most of those delays were caused by Paxton.

An attempt by Paxton’s lawyers to throw out the charges against him because the years of delay had violated his right to a speedy trial was denied by Beall last month.

Paxton is accused of defrauding investors in a Dallas-area tech company called Servergy by not disclosing that he was being paid by the company to recruit them. One of the people Paxton was accused of defrauding was former state Rep. Byron Cook.

Paxton is charged with two counts of securities fraud and one count of not being registered as an investment adviser. He has pleaded not guilty. The two securities fraud counts carry a potential sentence of up to 99 years in prison.

Paxton had also been charged in a federal civil complaint filed by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission over his work with Servergy. But a federal judge in March 2017 dismissed the complaint against him.

The securities fraud case has hung over Paxton nearly his entire time in statewide office. Yet Paxton, 61, has shown remarkable political resilience, maintaining and growing strong support among GOP activists on the state and national level, including from former President Donald Trump.

The criminal charges are among the myriad legal troubles that have long dogged Paxton over his three terms as one of the nation’s highest-profile state attorneys general. He was acquitted last year during a historic impeachment trial in the Texas Senate over accusations that he misused his office to help a wealthy donor.

However, a federal investigation has been probing some of the same charges presented in his impeachment.

He is also fighting efforts by former top aides to make him testify in a whistleblower civil lawsuit that also includes allegations central to the impeachment.


Associated Press writer Jim Vertuno in Austin, Texas contributed to this report.


Follow Juan A. Lozano: https://twitter.com/juanlozano70

Brought to you by www.srnnews.com