District 27 State Rep. Ron Reynolds (D-Missouri) received the maximum sentence of a year in jail and a $4,000 fine after being convicted of five counts of Misdemeanor Barratry on Monday.
Reynolds posted $25,000 bond and is out of jail, pending his appeal, which is being handled by Houston attorney and fellow State Rep. Harold Dutton (D-Houston).
Dutton indicated in a television interview that he believes that racism was a factor in the conviction and sentence, calling it “Conroe Justice.”
Reynolds, the Democratic House Whip, was convicted of Barratry (colloquially known as Ambulance Chasing) by a Montgomery County jury in Conroe.
Misdemeanor convictions, unlike felonies, do not disqualify legislators from serving.
However, Reynolds will likely face a Democratic Party primary in March – either imprisoned or with legal troubles still pending.
Either way, it’s a golden opportunity for any of his political opponents, especially former Fort Bend Democratic Party Chairman Steve Brown, who had indicated that he’s considering running for the District 27 seat.
Efforts to reach current Party Chairman Don Bankston, regarding his support for Reynolds at this time, were unsuccessful. Bankston and the Fort Bend Democratic Party had stood by Reynolds throughout the legal process.
Reynolds, who saw the charges get downgraded from felonies, took the unorthodox move of representing himself in court this week, but told The Texas Tribune that he was “firing (his) lawyer…I was looking forward to closure yesterday, but the fight must go on.”
One of the prosecution’s witnesses was Robert Valdez, a four-time felon and former courier for Reynolds’ law firm.
Valdez testified against Reynolds, in a move that the state representative believes was motivated by reducing his own sentence. Valdez is currently serving a five-year prison term.
“I think it was based on, ‘I’m a Democratic state rep in a red county,” Reynolds told The Tribune. “And then you’ve got a lawyer and the only thing more unpopular than lawyers are politicians.”
In 2013, Reynolds was charged with felony Barratry in Harris County, but the charges were dropped, partially due to the fact that an investigator was found to have stolen comic books in an unrelated case.