Sept. 16 (UPI) -- Texas state senators on Saturday acquitted state Attorney General Ken Paxton on each of the 16 counts he was facing in his impeachment trial at the state capitol in Austin.
The decision came after they had deliberated on 16 articles of impeachment for more than seven hours Friday.
Paxton was accused of misusing the powers of the attorney general's office to help his friend and donor Nate Paul, an Austin real estate investor who was under federal investigation.
The House impeachment managers insisted that they proved their claims of bribery and corruption, arguing that the jury of 30 senators had no choice but to convict. Paxton's defense team, however, successfully argued that the case was full of holes, circumstantial evidence and misdirection.
Sen. Angela Paxton, the attorney general's wife, was prohibited from participating in deliberations or voting.
The attorney general was not present in the Senate chamber as the senators filed in to vote on the articles of impeachment in his trial. He was present Friday for closing arguments and on the first day of the trial while his lawyer pleaded not guilty on his behalf.
Senators completed private deliberations on the 16 articles on Saturday morning following more than eight hours of deliberations.
The House case centered on Paxton's relationship with Austin real estate investor Nate Paul, his friend and political donor. The prosecution alleges that Paxton repeatedly abused his office to help Paul investigate his enemies, delay foreclosure sales of his properties, gain the upper hand in a lawsuit with a charity and obtain confidential files on the police investigating him.
During closing arguments Friday, the prosecution and defense told wildly contrasting tales following the eight days of witness testimony.
The House impeachment managers insisted that they proved their claims of bribery and corruption, arguing that the jury of 30 senators had no choice but to convict.
"Unlike the public servants here today, he has no regard for the principles of honor and integrity," said impeachment manager Rep. Andrew Murr, a Republican lawmaker from Junction, Texas. "He has betrayed us and the people of Texas, and if he is given the opportunity he will continue to abuse the power given to him."
Paxton's team said the prosecution's case was full of holes, circumstantial evidence and misdirection. And they framed Paxton as the victim of a "witch hunt" orchestrated by Texas House leadership, "the Bush dynasty" and insubordinate former deputies-turned-whistleblowers in his office.
Acquittal was the only logical response, they said.
"All of this foolishness that they've accused this man of is false," said Paxton's attorney, Tony Buzbee. "The question I have in my mind is whether there is ... courage in this room to vote the way you know the evidence requires. I think there is. I hope there is. I pray there is."
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune.
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