Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton gets off fraud charges by paying $300k and promising to attend two days ethics training

Ken Paxton, Texas's Attorney General, was indicted on felony fraud charges many years ago: he helped bilk investors in a startup. For years he was able to delay his own trial, but it was finally scheduled for April—until today, when prosecutors suddenly dropped the charges in return for him paying $300,000 in restitution to his victims, performing 100 hours of community service, and attending 15 hours of ethics training.

The announcement by special prosecutors in a Houston courtroom came less than three weeks before Paxton was set to stand trial on felony charges that could have led to a prison sentence. It was the closest Paxton — who was indicted in 2015 — has ever come to trial over accusations that he duped investors in a tech startup near Dallas. … If he had been convicted, Paxton could have been sentenced to life in prison. Paxton's attorneys emphasized in a statement Tuesday that he made no admission of guilt under the agreement.

$300,000 is nothing to this guy. He remains Texas's top lawyer. I've heard this escape route described a few different pithy ways. "If the penalty for a crime is a fine, then that law only exists for the lower class," is the classic formulation, but I like the more succinct "a fine is a price." And it's not even that: it's simply what he was presumed to have taken.

Coming as it does after other news, you might quip that it's Elite Impunity week in America. Thing is, though, that's every week in America. That there's nothing legal anyone can do about their crimes is what they know. The only real risk they take is that everyone ends up knowing it.