By Jon Herskovitz
AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - Lawyers for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton went to a district court on Tuesday seeking to throw out felony charges against him, saying there were problems with the grand jury that handed down the indictments.
Paxton, a Tea Party Republican, was in a Dallas-area court for a hearing on the three charges of securities fraud that could bring up to 99 years in prison. He prayed with his family and supporters before the hearing.
Paxton's lawyers have asked the court in Collin County to quash the indictments, citing District Judge Chris Oldner's actions in the proceedings. Paxton's indictment was reported in the media before the results of the grand jury were officially released.
In court papers filed in November, Paxton's lawyers said there were problems with setting up the grand jury and maintaining the secrecy of its proceedings. The filing also said Oldner "engaged in purposeful and cumulative efforts to subvert the grand jury process" and violate Paxton’s right to due process.
The proceedings, which are being shown live through Internet streaming, began with a Collin County district attorney saying she saw nothing improper in the way the judge handled the grand jury process.
Paxton is facing two security fraud charges related to stock sales and compensation from the Texas technology company Servergy. The company had been under federal investigation for suspected misstatements about orders for its data servers.
He is also facing charges he illegally acted as a securities agent for another firm run by a political ally.
When in the state legislature, Paxton was hired to seek clients by investment firm Mowery Capital Management, which is facing allegations from the State Securities Board of defrauding investors.
The board found in May 2014 that Paxton was not properly registered as an investment adviser. It reprimanded him and fined him $1,000.
The Texas Democratic Party is calling for Paxton's resignation and a poll released in August by the Longview-based Texas Bipartisan Justice Committee showed 62 percent of Republicans also think he should step down.
Spokesmen for Paxton have tried to disparage the investigation, which they say is faulty and politically motivated.
(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Bill Trott)