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What Might The Possible Paxton Defense Or Prosecution Look Like?

Bill Zeeble
Protesters wanting Attorney General Ken Paxton's resignation stacked the Collin County Courthouse steps Monday

A lawyer specializing in white collar financial crime says Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton faces tough felony charges alleged in Monday’s unsealed indictments. Paxton says he’s not guilty, while Democrats want him to resign.

Campbell Zachry’s been an attorney for about 40 years, and for most of those he’s specialized in financial fraud and white collar crime law. Two of the three felony charges against Paxton carry a maximum life sentence.

“Anytime, whether a politician or business person or man on the street, when you’re charged with something that exposes you to being incarcerated for several years, that’s very serious,” Zachry says.

The Collin County Indictments name two investors who put money into the McKinney business Servergy, not knowing Paxton was collecting a commission.

Credit Bill Zeeble / KERA News
Ken Paxton, with some family members, on the night he won the primary election to be Attorney General

“He did not disclose to them what the indictment claims he should have,” Zachry notes. “That he wasn’t actually an investor in what he was offering to sale (sell) and that he was getting compensated for selling to them, in amounts of $100,000 or more, which is what kicks it into the felony level.”

Zachry believes the prosecution has an advantage based on the strength of the grand jury indictments. But he expects a tough Paxton defense and imagines defense lawyers offering possible explanations.

“For example,” Zachry says, “that he was unaware that his failure to disclose that type of information could be instrumental in his selling of the product.”

Democrats called for Paxton’s resignation. Dallas County Democratic party chair Carol Donovan helped lead a small protest Monday on the McKinney Courthouse steps.

“We are concerned about a man who calls himself the Attorney General of Texas,” Donovan says, “who has obviously not led us by example.”

Neal Katz, Collin County’s Republican Executive Director, says Paxton should stay where he is.

“An indictment shows there’s a question to be answered,” Kats says, “and since he hasn’t been put down as guilty, he should not resign at all, he should stay the course and do his job.”    

Paxton’s attorney says that’s what the Attorney General plans to do – go back to work in Austin. He’ll also follow the judge’s direction and say nothing about the case.

Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.