Texas appeals court upholds fraud charges against state attorney general

A Dallas appeals court upheld Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s three state indictments for felony fraud on Wednesday, the Dallas Morning News reported.

The newspaper said Paxton, a Republican, likely would appeal the decision to the highest criminal court in Texas.

Paxton was indicted by a grand jury last year on charges of defrauding investors and illegally acting as a securities agent. He faces similar charges in federal court.

Kent Schaffer, a Houston lawyer acting as a special prosecutor in the case, confirmed the Morning News report in an email.

A lawyer for Paxton, Dan Cogdell, said in an email the defense team would weigh in coming days whether to bring the ruling before the Court of Criminal Appeals.

The Fifth Court of Appeals ruled that three of the arguments Paxton used to challenge his indictments could not be considered at this point in the process, the Morning News said. A fourth argument was invalid, the court said.

The newspaper said Paxton’s first three arguments dealt with whether the judge who empanelled the grand jury that indicted him had done so improperly. The fourth argued that one of the state laws Paxton is accused of violating is unconstitutional and trumped by similar federal law.

Paxton has contended he is being targeted because of his Christian beliefs.

Paxton said last year that Texas county clerks who objected to gay marriage on religious grounds could refuse to license same-sex couples despite the U.S. Supreme Court ruling requiring states to allow same-sex marriage.

He could be disbarred for advising state officials to violate a Supreme Court decision.

Paxton faces two security fraud charges related to stock sales and compensation from the Texas technology firm Servergy. He also faces charges he illegally acted as a securities agent for a separate firm.

(Writing by Ian Simpson in Washington; Editing by Diane Craft)

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