A judge on Friday rejected Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton ’s attempts to throw out felony securities fraud charges that have shadowed the Republican for nearly a decade.
The decision by state District Judge Andrea Beall, an elected Democrat, keeps Paxton on track for an April 15 trial on charges that he duped investors in a tech startup.
If convicted, Paxton faces up to 99 years in prison. Paxton, who has pleaded not guilty, appeared in the Houston courtroom for the hearing, sitting at the defense table with his attorneys.
“He’s ready for trial … This thing has been pending for eight years. (The special prosecutors) want to dance. Put on your shoes. It’s time to go. Let’s dance,” Dan Cogdell, one of Paxton’s attorneys, told reporters after Friday’s court hearing.
Brian Wice, one of the special prosecutors handling the case, said it was important that Paxton’s case go to trial because “no one is above the law. And that includes Ken Paxton. And that’s why this case matters.”
During Friday’s hearing, the other special prosecutor in the case, Kent Schaffer, announced he was withdrawing ahead of the trial.
After the hearing, Wice said the two prosecutors parted ways after disagreeing over Schaffer’s push to avoid a trial and instead settle the case through pre-trial intervention.
Wice said Schaffer had recently reached out to Cogdell with the offer for pretrial intervention, which is like probation and would ultimately lead to the dismissal of charges if a defendant stays out of legal trouble.
Wice said he doesn’t believe pretrial intervention would have been appropriate because there would be no admission of guilt and no jail time.
“And without an acknowledgment of guilt, to me, that was worse than a slap on the wrist. That was, gee, let’s get you a cocktail, a hot meal, and breath mint. And that wasn’t going to happen on my watch,” Wice said.
Cogdell said Schaffer had reached out to him about the proposal and he would have been happy to resolve the case without a trial and a dismissal of the charges.
The fate of former President Donald Trump’s attempt to return to the White House is in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court.
On Thursday, the justices will hear arguments in Trump’s appeal of a Colorado Supreme Court ruling that he is not eligible to run again for president because he violated a provision in the 14th Amendment preventing those who “engaged in insurrection” from holding office.
Many legal observers expect the nation’s highest court will reverse the Colorado ruling rather than remove the leading contender for the Republican presidential nomination from the ballot. But it’s always tricky to try to predict a Supreme Court ruling, and the case against Trump has already broken new legal ground.
“No Person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two thirds of each House, remove such disability.”
Trump’s lawyers say this part of the Constitution wasn’t meant to apply to the president. Notice how it specifically mentions electors, senators and representatives, but not the presidency.
It also says those who take an oath to “support” the United States, but the presidential oath doesn’t use that word. Instead, the Constitution requires presidents to say they will “preserve, protect and defend” the Constitution. And finally, Section 3 talks about any other “officer” of the United States, but Trump’s lawyers argue that language is meant to apply to presidential appointees, not the president.
That was enough to convince the Colorado district court judge who initially heard the case. She found that Trump had engaged in insurrection, but also agreed that it wasn’t clear that Section 3 applied to the president. That part of her decision was reversed by the Colorado Supreme Court.
The majority of the state’s highest court wrote: “President Trump asks us to hold that Section 3 disqualifies every oath-breaking insurrectionist except the most powerful one and that it bars oath-breakers from virtually every office, both state and federal, except the highest one in the land.”
Trump’s lawyers contend that the question of who is covered by a rarely used, once obscure clause should be decided by Congress, not unelected judges. They contend that the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol wasn’t an insurrection. They say the attack wasn’t widespread, didn’t involve large amounts of firearms or include other markers of sedition. They say Trump didn’t “engage” in anything that day other than in exercising his protected free speech rights.
Others who have been skeptical of applying Section 3 to Trump have made an argument that the dissenting Colorado Supreme Court justices also found persuasive: The way the court went about finding that Trump violated Section 3 violated the former president’s due process rights. They contend he was entitled to a structured legal process rather than a court in Colorado trying to figure out if the Constitution applied to him.
That gets at the unprecedented nature of the cases. Section 3 has rarely been used after an 1872 congressional amnesty excluded most former Confederates from it. The U.S. Supreme Court has never heard such a case.
A legal battle over whether Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza amounts to genocide opens Thursday at the United Nations’ top court with preliminary hearings into South Africa’s call for judges to order an immediate suspension of Israel’s military actions. Israel stringently denies the genocide allegation.
The case, that is likely to take years to resolve, strikes at the heart of Israel’s national identity as a Jewish state created in the aftermath of the Nazi genocide in the Holocaust. It also involves South Africa’s identity: Its ruling African National Congress party has long compared Israel’s policies in Gaza and the West Bank to its own history under the apartheid regime of white minority rule, which restricted most Blacks to “homelands” before ending in 1994.
Israel normally considers U.N. and international tribunals unfair and biased. But it is sending a strong legal team to the International Court of Justice to defend its military operation launched in the aftermath of the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas.
“I think they have come because they want to be exonerated and think they can successfully resist the accusation of genocide,” said Juliette McIntyre, an expert on international law at the University of South Australia.
In a statement after the case was filed, the Palestinian Authority’s foreign ministry urged the court to “immediately take action to protect the Palestinian people and call on Israel, the occupying power, to halt its onslaught against the Palestinian people, in order to ensure an objective legal resolution.”
Two days of preliminary hearings at the International Court of Justice begin with lawyers for South Africa explaining to judges why the country has accused Israel of “acts and omissions” that are “genocidal in character” in the Gaza war and has called for an immediate halt to Israel’s military actions.
Thursday’s opening hearing is focused on South Africa’s request for the court to impose binding interim orders including that Israel halt its military campaign. A decision will likely take weeks.
Israel’s offensive has killed more than 23,200 Palestinians in Gaza, according to the Health Ministry in Hamas-run Gaza. About two-thirds of the dead are women and children, health officials say. The death toll does not distinguish between combatants and civilians.
In the Oct. 7 attack, in which Hamas overwhelmed Israel’s defenses and stormed through several communities, Palestinian militants killed some 1,200 people, mainly civilians. They abducted around 250 others, nearly half of whom have been released.
For holding a sign outside a courthouse reminding jurors of their right to acquit defendants, a retiree faces up to two years in prison. For hanging a banner reading “Just Stop Oil” off a bridge, an engineer got a three-year prison sentence. Just for walking slowly down the street, scores of people have been arrested.
They are among hundreds of environmental activists arrested for peaceful demonstrations in the U.K., where tough new laws restrict the right to protest.
The Conservative government says the laws prevent extremist activists from hurting the economy and disrupting daily life. Critics say civil rights are being eroded without enough scrutiny from lawmakers or protection by the courts. They say the sweeping arrests of peaceful demonstrators, along with government officials labeling environmental activists extremists, mark a worrying departure for a liberal democracy.
“Legitimate protest is part of what makes any country a safe and civilized place to live,” said Jonathon Porritt, an ecologist and former director of Friends of the Earth, who joined a vigil outside London’s Central Criminal Court to protest the treatment of demonstrators.
“The government has made its intent very clear, which is basically to suppress what is legitimate, lawful protest and to use every conceivable mechanism at their disposal to do that.”
Britain is one of the world’s oldest democracies, home of the Magna Carta, a centuries-old Parliament and an independent judiciary. That democratic system is underpinned by an “unwritten constitution” — a set of laws, rules, conventions and judicial decisions accumulated over hundreds of years.
The effect of that patchwork is “we rely on self-restraint by governments,” said Andrew Blick, author of “Democratic Turbulence in the United Kingdom” and a political scientist at King’s College London. “You hope the people in power are going to behave themselves.”
But what if they don’t? During three turbulent and scandal-tarnished years in office, Boris Johnson pushed prime ministerial power to the limits. More recently, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has asked Parliament to overrule the U.K. Supreme Court, which blocked a plan to send asylum-seekers to Rwanda.
Such actions have piled pressure on Britain’s democratic foundations. Critics say cracks have appeared.
As former Conservative justice minister David Lidington put it: “The ‘good chap’ theory of checks and balances has now been tested to destruction.”