AUSTIN — Lawyers representing the men who accused Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton of securities fraud will be able to question him under oath — but not before the election.
Collin County District Court Judge Cynthia Wheless ordered Paxton to sit for an hour-long deposition Nov. 28. court records show.
Terry Jacobson, who along with Dallas attorney Alex More is representing Corsicana GOP Representative Byron Cook and billionaire Florida businessman Joel Hochberg, confirmed Wheless made the decision at a hearing on Friday and signed the order on Tuesday.
Paxton’s agency and campaign staff, as well as his attorney, Mitch Little, did not respond to requests for comment.
The deposition order comes after Paxton filed motions to dismiss at least two subpoenas in the past three months, citing scheduling conflicts.
Setting the deposition for late November means Paxton won’t have to answer questions about his securities fraud charges until the Nov. 8 midterm election, when he faces Democratic challenger Rochelle Garza.
In addition to his 7-year fraud indictments, the conservative Republican also faces a whistleblower trial and an FBI corruption investigation.
Paxton has denied wrongdoing in those cases, saying he was the target of baseless witch hunts.
The deposition relates to a year-long row between Paxton and two former friends accusing him of defrauding them.
In 2015, Cook and Hochberg alleged that Paxton violated state securities laws by persuading them to invest in a technology company McKinney without telling them he had received shares in the company. Cook, who served as chairman of the State Affairs Committee, and Paxton both served in the Texas House and invested in a number of businesses together.
That summer, a Collin County grand jury indicted Paxton on two counts of securities fraud and one count of failing to register with the state securities commission. If convicted, he faces five to 99 years on each fraud charge, plus another two to 10 years on filing fees, plus fines.
The year after his indictment, a Paxton loyalist hit back at Cook and Hochberg in the case that is at the center of this deposition fight.
In a civil lawsuit, Charles “Chip” Loper III accused the pair of concocting an elaborate “self-dealing” scheme to profit from investment funds from a mining asset company called Unity Resources. Loper said the alleged scheme hurt him and his father financially.
The Lopers, who founded an insurance company Frisco, are close allies of Paxton. They donated to his campaign and a Paxton defense fund, and Loper III manages the Attorney General’s Blind Trust.
Lawyers for Cook and Hochberg called the suit a tit-for-tat attempt to “smear and tarnish” the reputations of their clients after they accused the attorney general of fraud.
They scored a victory last year by adding Paxton as a “responsible third party” to the Unity lawsuit. Like them, Paxton was an investor and also served as the company’s attorney, both men argued, saying he too should be held accountable for any alleged wrongdoing.
The decision does not mean that Paxton has been found responsible for any alleged wrongdoing, nor that it clears Cook or Hochberg.
Although related, the Unity lawsuit is separate from Paxton’s fraud case. His indictments remain active and, due to several delays, he has not yet faced a jury. Paxton’s lawyers and prosecutors fight over where to hold the trial.
Since June, lawyers for Cook and Hochberg have been trying to get Paxton to testify in the Unity case, during which they can ask about his securities fraud charges.
Their first subpoena called for Paxton to appear on July 12. But his lawyer said he would travel then, citing both an upcoming visit to China “with other attorneys general” and a trip to Europe.
A search of Paxton’s social media presence does not indicate when or if those trips took place, and his agency and campaign staff did not respond to questions about when and whether the attorney general made the trips. trips.
“Forcing him to change his plans at this late date would cause Paxton undue burden and expense,” Little wrote on June 15.
Later, Paxton was subpoenaed on August 19. But his attorney again fired back, saying there were unresolvable scheduling conflicts. Paxton was filed once in the Unity case in August 2019, but that filing was deemed private and remains sealed.