When Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton was indicted on three felony charges related to alleged securities violations he became just the latest in a long line of public officials charged with criminal offenses.
In the spring, Paxton was charged in a federal court with misleading investors in a technology company, reported the Texas Tribune.
Charges against public officials are often complicated in nature. They can also be politically motivated and are often drawn out affairs.
The overturning of the corruption conviction of former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell by the U.S. Supreme Court this summer has also led federal prosecutors to look again at the way these cases have been handled, reported the Washington Post.
Texas has a long history of criminal prosecutions against public officials but while some were found guilty, many others were acquitted. The Dallas Morning News highlighted some of the famous cases.
Five Texas Public Officials Charged with Crimes
James Ferguson – Texas Governor
In 1917, Ferguson was indicted on nine charges after vetoing money to the University of Texas at Austin, following opposition to his candidacy from faculty members. Although he was convicted and removed from office he later ran to be president and his wife was elected to be the first female governor of Texas.
Bill Clayton – House Speaker
Clayton was indicted in 1980 and accused of taking money for votes during an FBI sting. He had failed to file reports saying he had received it but later said he was planning to return it, according to the Dallas Morning News. He was acquitted of the crime and secured another term as House speaker.
Gib Lewis, House Speaker
In 1990, Lewis was accused of illegally accepted a gift from a law firm. He pled no contest, paid a fine of $2,000 and promised not to seek reelection.
Dan Morales, Attorney General
Charges were brought against Morales in 2003. The attorney general was accused of mailing money in unearned legal fees to a friend. He admitted charges of lying on his tax return and mail fraud. Morales was imprisoned for four years, but he was released to a halfway house at the start of 2006.
Governor Rick Perry
In 2014, Texas governor Rick Perry, who unsuccessfully sought the GOP’s nomination for the presidential race last year, was accused and indicted of abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public servant. The Dallas Morning News reported that the second charge was ruled unconstitutional.
Perry was accused of threatened to veto funding for the Public Integrity Unit unless Rosemary Lehmberg, the Travis County District Attorney, resigned. Lehmberg had been convicted of drunk driving.
In February, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals tossed out the remaining charge against Perry who had been the first Texas governor to be indicted on a crime for a century.
Crimes of public corruption are complicated and not easy to substantiate as demonstrated by the varying fortunes of public officials charged with crimes. Whether you are a member of a local council or the state governor, you have to abide by a standard of rules that is different to members of the public. However, criminality can be a gray area in the public arena.
If you have been charged with an offense of corruption or any other white collar crime, it’s crucial that you receive experienced counsel from seasoned Texas criminal defense attorneys. Contact us here or call (512) 474-4445.