When State Rep. Ron Reynolds was sworn in Tuesday (Jan. 8) at the Texas Capital for his fifth term, he had already filed 21 bills from his Montgomery County Jail cell for the 86th Legislative session.
Reynolds served four months of a year-long sentence for misdemeanor barratry, or ambulance chasing, offense, getting out Jan. 4 for good behavior, just in time to partake in the Jan. 8 swearing-in ceremony in Austin.
In response to a September letter from the Fort Bend Star to Reynolds, the legislator wrote back saying he intended to use his jail experience “to highlight the continued racial inequities within our criminal justice systems. This (incarceration) will make me a stronger advocate and provide hope to others through my testimony.”
During his jail stay, Reynolds kept busy filing bills he hopes will see the light of day in this legislative session. According to BillTrack50, an online bill tracking system, Reynolds filed 21 bills on Nov. 12 addressing a myriad of issues including state perks for small businesses, authorizing and regulating medical marijuana, amending the labor code increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour and allowing electronic voter registration.
In addition, he filed two House Joint Resolutions proposing two separate amendments to the state constitution. One requires the attorney general to appoint a special prosecutor to prosecute certain offenses that are committed by peace officers and the second would authorize and regulate the possession, cultivation, and sale of cannabis for medical use.
The proposed constitutional amendments would go before voters Nov. 5.
He did not return messages, texts, phone calls or emails from the Fort Bend Star for comment.
Through Facebook, he invited family and friends to join him in Austin to watch the proceedings from the House gallery and to greet him before and after the ceremony in his office at the Capitol.
Though he has served his time, Reynolds’ troubles are not over. The Commission for Lawyer Discipline wants to disbar the attorney and have planned a hearing at 9 a.m. on Jan. 25 in the courtroom of the Supreme Court of Texas.
First filed on Dec. 2, 2015, the commission filed its petition for compulsory discipline against Reynolds based on his convictions.
Reynolds’ attorney, Jeffery D. Wagnon, noted that there is currently pending in the 8th Court of Appeals a direct appeal of each conviction. He asked the board not to suspend Reynolds from the practice of law during the appeal, according to commission records.
Prosecutors argued that Reynolds worked with convicted felon Robert Valdez on an ambulance chasing scheme where Valdez culled the names of accident victims from police reports and referred them to several attorneys, including Reynolds, for a fee. Texas has a 30-day ban on lawyers’ solicitation following an accident. Reynolds has continually expressed his innocence of any wrongdoing and his attorneys argue that he was convicted based on emotion rather than fact.
“Every single state witness admitted there was no written or testimonial evidence that proved that Respondent had knowledge that Robert Valdez, the ringleader of the barratry scheme, was illegally soliciting clients. The state’s failure to prove Respondent’s knowledge of the barratry scheme will prove fatal on appeal,” Wagnon wrote.
He also noted that no actions were taken against the six attorneys arrested at the same time as Reynolds, for engaging in the same conduct, and there were significantly more attorneys that were working with Robert Valdez that were never charged.
“The disparate treatment of similarly situated attorneys certainly calls into question the propriety of selective enforcement of both the laws of this state and disciplinary rules,” Wagnon wrote.
Reynolds’ 27th District represents Missouri City and small parts of Houston and Sugar Land.