Judge moves criminal case against Texas attorney general

By JAKE BLEIBERG Associated Press

DALLAS (AP) — A judge on Friday ordered the long-running criminal case against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton returned to his home county in a legal victory for the Republican.

Judge Jason Luong ruled that the securities fraud case should continue in Collin County, north of Dallas, siding with Paxton’s defense attorneys who argued the case should be returned there after it was moved to Houston. Paxton pleaded not guilty in 2015 and the case has been stalled for years over legal challenges.

Before being elected attorney general in 2014, Paxton served in the Texas House and Senate from Collin County. He has conservative allies at all levels of government there.

“We’re gratified with the court’s decision recognizing the legal merits and we look forward to getting back to Collin County and resolving the issue,” said Philip Hilder, a lawyer for Paxton.

Brian Wice, one of the special prosecutors on Paxton’s case, said, “We trust the court of appeals will set aside this clearly erroneous ruling and keep these felony prosecutions in Harris County where the law mandates they belong.”

The decision likely means more delays in the case and comes as Paxton is facing mounting political and legal issues on another front.

This month, members of the attorney general’s staff accused him of committing unrelated crimes in pursuing an investigation of claims by one of his wealthy political donors alleging wrongdoing by the FBI. Seven senior lawyers in Paxton’s office said they reported him to law enforcement for alleged bribery and abuse of office in connection to his relationship with Austin developer Nate Paul. Since then, one of the seven lawyers resigned, another was put on leave and two were fired.

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