The water just got hotter for the state's top law enforcement officer (who double-dips as minister of state religion).
The criminal investigation against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has taken a more serious turn, with special prosecutors now planning to present a first-degree felony securities fraud case against him to a Collin County grand jury, News 8 has learned.
Special prosecutor Kent Schaffer told News 8 Wednesday afternoon that the Texas Rangers uncovered new evidence during the investigation that led to the securities fraud allegations against the sitting attorney general.
"The Rangers went out to investigate one thing, and they came back with information on something else," Schaffer told News 8. "It's turned into something different than when they started."
Schaffer, a Houston criminal defense attorney, said the securities fraud allegations involve amounts well in excess of $100,000. He declined to comment specifics of the fraud allegations.
A first-degree felony conviction is punishable by up to life in prison.
Just ponder that last sentence for a moment before we proceed. It's nice to have friends in high places, like Rick Perry, when you screw up and break the law.
News 8 also learned Wednesday that Paxton had hired a former federal district judge.
"I met with General Paxton and he had retained me to look into the matter," said Joe Kendall, who practices in Dallas. "I am honored that he did. He's a good man."
Kendall told News 8 that he met with Paxton "very recently" in Dallas and confirmed that he was hired within the past two days.
"I'm going to be helping look into the matter," Kendall said, declining to comment further.
Yes, he's a good Christian man, one who has advised county clerks across Texas in recent days to violate their oaths (sworn on a Bible, mind you) and refuse to process marriage applications if they have religious objections to the people who wish to be married. Never mind that state law defines this function of county clerks and their surrogates as ministerial, a definition everyone ought to acquaint themselves with. Paxton's been forced to fold his tent for the most part in this regard, although he is still 'fighting the good fight', like a Japanese soldier hiding in a cave years after his nation's surrender in WWII.
As with our illustrious former governor and erstwhile presidential candidate, Paxton could still skate across the thin ice, since the Lege emasculated the Public Integrity Unit in Travis County, and the proceedings now will be heard in his home county of Collin. It's the good old grand jury 'pick-a-pal' system that may save him, the perverse details of which earned the Houston Chronicle's Lisa Falkenberg a Pulitzer earlier this year, and which compelled the Lege to pass and the governor to sign into law a statute that eliminates it. (That law does not go into effect until September.)
I can't bet against Paxton hanging on to his job. God is on his side, after all, and the prayers of something in excess of 50% of registered Republicans in the state may lift him up to even more exalted status in the wake of all these "libruls" persecuting him.