Houston-area lawmaker charged with barratry

HOUSTON - A Houston-area state lawmaker who is also an attorney is facing a felony charge accusing him of illegally soliciting court cases.

State Rep. Ronald Reynolds, a Democrat who represents the Fort Bend County area southwest of Houston, was free Wednesday after posting a $5,000 bond.

He has been charged with barratry, which bars attorneys from directly soliciting clients who have not contacted them.

In a criminal complaint, Reynolds is accused of having another person try to solicit legal work on the lawmaker's behalf from a car accident victim.

"During the undercover investigation, the patient was given a contract to fill out. It was the attorney-client contract for Mr. Reynolds, and that contract was then sent to Mr. Reynolds and he had it in his possession," Harris County Assistant District Attorney Wendy Baker said.

That accident victim is another Houston attorney. She declined to comment when reached at her office.

If convicted of the third-degree felony, Reynolds could face 2 to 10 years in jail, a fine of up to $10,000, the loss of his attorney license and he may be forced to resign from office.

Reynolds, who is a former associate municipal judge, issued the following statement.

"In the early evening of Tuesday, April 24, 2012, I was arrested for the alleged violation of a law known as barratry, or the unlawful solicitation of clients by lawyers. While the facts of the case have yet to be disclosed to me, it is my intent to fully cooperate with the prosecutors who are pursuing the charges.

"I maintain my innocence and plan to vigorously defend myself against all allegations. Although it appears that the charges filed against me are politicized, I do not take the matter lightly. In fact, since becoming an elected official, I have voted for new laws holding lawyers guilty of barratry more accountable to their victims.

"It is my hope that the truth regarding the allegations will soon be made clear. I have full confidence in our judicial system and look forward to a prompt resolution."

Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.