Nate Paul, the 36-year-old Austin real estate investor who is named in six articles of impeachment against Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, was arrested Thursday and appeared in court Friday on an eight-count federal indictment alleging multiple financial crimes. Paul did not enter a plea at Friday’s court appearance at which the indictment was unsealed.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Dustin Howell presided over the proceeding and ordered Paul to surrender his passport and any firearms.
Paul is charged with eight counts of knowingly making a false statement or report for the purpose of influencing the action of a financial institution on an application for a loan.
Lenders are said to have been based in Ireland, New York, Connecticut and Texas, and the alleged violations occurred between March 2017 and April 2018. Each count carries a potential penalty of up to 30 years in prison and a fine up to $1,000,000.
Paul, a major donor to Paxton’s campaign, was released after the brief hearing without returning to the Travis County Jail where Paul had been held since 4:25 p.m. Thursday. Paul was ordered to remain in the state of Texas.
Paul is named in Articles I, II, IV, V, IX, and X of the Paxton impeachment. The attorney general is accused of multiple kinds of misconduct involving Paul, including directing senior staffers to do $72,000 worth of taxpayer-funded work for the investor. Bribery charges also allege that Paul employed a woman with whom Paxton had an extramarital affair, and that he paid thousands for renovations to Paxton’s home. In return, Paxton is said to have used his office to improperly provide Paul an FBI file related to an investigation of him.
Employees who accused Paxton of wrongdoing relating to his involvement with Paul were later fired, precipitating a whistleblower lawsuit and eventually Paxton’s impeachment.
Paxton was serving his third term as the elected attorney general for Texas when he was impeached on May 27 by a 121-23 vote of the Texas House. The impeachment resulted in an automatic suspension for Paxton, who is accused of bribery, abuse of office, and obstruction.
The attorney general’s impeachment is unprecedented in Texas, particularly given the state’s GOP trifecta which includes Republican Gov. Greg Abbott and two Republican-controlled chambers of the state legislature.
Paul was found in contempt and ordered to spend 10 days in jail in March in a case relating to the allegations involving Paxton. In that case, Paul was fined $180,000 for lying in district court.
Tony Buzbee, Paxton’s attorney, said in an email to Law&Crime Friday that the charges against his client have “nothing whatsoever” to do with Attorney General Paxton.
“That should speak volumes as to how weak this impeachment effort is,” Buzbee commented.
Paul’s attorney did not immediately respond to request for comment.
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