State prosecutors said Thursday they want to move Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s trial out of Collin County because they cannot find an impartial jury there, according to the Dallas Morning News.
“Over the course of almost the last two years … Paxton’s posse of spokesmen, supporters and surrogates — a clique herein collectively referred to as ‘Team Paxton’ — has embarked on a crusade clearly calculated to taint the Collin County jury pool,” prosecutors wrote in a filing.
Prosecutors said Paxton supporters in his home county, where the alleged crimes took place, are persuading locals to rally around Paxton before his securities fraud trial takes place on May 1. The trial will likely be delayed if the venue changes, according to the Dallas Morning News.
“On behalf of Mr. Paxton, we vigorously deny the twisted and distorted allegations contained in the Motion to transfer venue, most of which pertain to actions taken by law-abiding taxpayers in the exercise of their free speech and access to the courts,” Paxton’s defense lawyer Philip Hilder said in an Austin American-Statesman
In August of 2015 the Collin County grand jury charged Paxton with two first-degree felonies for securities fraud, each carrying a maximum of 99 years in prison. The jury indicted Paxton for allegedly coaxing investors into buying stock for the company Servergy, Inc. in 2011, a company he profited off of when he was a Texas House member.
The court also charged Paxton with a third-degree felony for not registering himself as an investment adviser representative with the State Securities Board. Investment advisers help clients with investments in stock, bonds or other securities and must register their status to disclose any conflicts of interest.
According to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, investment advisers tend to encourage people to invest in the company they represent because it compensates them.
On Jan. 30 Collin County halted paying the lawyers prosecuting Paxton after a local taxpayer filed a lawsuit against the lawyers and the county.
The real estate developer who filed the lawsuit said the county exceeded a cap on payments for the three attorneys, who were initially paid up to $300 per hour, according to the Austin American-Statesman.
Michelle Smith, senior executive assistant in the Office of the Attorney General, wrote a Facebook post in October comparing Paxton’s situation to Jesus’ plight.
“Friends, remember when they wanted to kill Jesus, an innocent man?” Smith said in the post. “No judge wanted to clear him, so they kept passing him from Judge to Judge because they knew he was INNOCENT!”
Paxton, who has been Texas Attorney General since Jan. 2015, said in a video last year he will continue his work despite the trial, which may take place near the beginning of state primaries.
“I’m not going anywhere,” Paxton said in the video. “And I want you to know that I will continue to do the job I was elected to do.”