- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 1, 2016

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - An appeals court upheld criminal securities fraud charges against Texas’ attorney general Wednesday, and whether the Republican stands trial may now be decided by the same justices who recently threw out an indictment against former Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

Ken Paxton has now twice lost in his efforts to have allegations that he defrauded wealthy investors dismissed. His attorneys responded to the latest defeat from the Dallas-based 5th Court of Appeals with disappointment and did not immediately commit to pursuing a third and final appeal.

That would be with the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which is dominated by Republicans and in February threw out abuse-of-power charges against Perry that hampered his short-lived 2016 run for the White House.

Paxton was indicted nearly a year ago on charges that in 2011, while still a state lawmaker, he lured investors toward a high-tech startup near Dallas without disclosing that he was being paid by the company. He has spent most of his 17 months in office under indictment and is also being sued by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission over the same allegations of investor fraud.

Paxton’s attempts to have the criminal case thrown out boil down to claims that a grand jury in his hometown of McKinney was improperly picked. His attorneys also contend that a lesser charge of failing to register with state securities regulators is invalid because, they claim, Paxton was covered under federal law.

“Respectfully, we disagree that these fundamental flaws cannot be challenged pre-trial and will evaluate in coming days whether to raise these issues with the Court of Criminal Appeals,” Paxton attorney Bill Mateja said.

In February, the state’s highest criminal court threw out the case against Perry in a 6-2 decision. He had been indicted in 2014 on charges of abusing his power when he called for a Democratic district attorney to resign after being arrested for drunken driving, then vetoing state funds for public corruption prosecutors when she refused to step down.

Perry, who was indicted in liberal Austin, says he was the target of a political witch hunt. Paxton has made similar claims, but their cases are much different: Paxton’s alleged misdeeds didn’t happen in office, and he was indicted in a staunchly conservative Dallas suburb. One of the special prosecutors in the case, Brian Wice, represented former Republican U.S. House Majority Tom DeLay in his money laundering case.

Wice said he was “gratified but not surprised” that the Dallas appeals court let the case against Paxton proceed.

Paxton has said he won’t resign. Last week, he announced that Texas was leading an 11-state lawsuit against the Obama administration over a new directive on bathroom rights for transgender students in public schools.

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Follow Paul J. Weber on Twitter: www.twitter.com/pauljweber

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