A Democratic state lawmaker will likely spend the upcoming legislative session in a jail cell after being convicted of barratry and sentenced to one year.
State Rep. Ron Reynolds (D–Missouri City), who also serves as the House Democratic Whip, turned himself in last weekend to begin serving a one-year jail sentence for barratry, commonly called ambulance chasing.
In 2015, Reynolds was found guilty of five misdemeanor counts of barratry, which carry a maximum fine of $4,000 and a year in jail. He has been out on an appeal bond since then.
The charges stem from a sting operation that involved Reynolds and several other attorneys from Harris and Montgomery counties. Reynolds had a deal with chiropractor Robert Valdez to get new clients, where Valdez would find accident reports on the Harris County Police Department website then solicit those injured individuals to Reynolds and the other lawyers.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denied Reynolds’ request for a review of the misdemeanor conviction. Despite being given a one-year sentence, Reynolds indicated in a statement that he doesn’t intend to miss the legislative session:
Today, Representative Ron Reynolds voluntarily revoked his appeal bond so that he could be prepared to start the 86th Legislative Session on time. Rep. Reynolds’ attorney is still working on various legal challenges and he is confident that his misdemeanor conviction will be overturned. Moreover, Rep. Reynolds has full confidence that his experienced staff will be able to handle any immediate needs of his constituents, during his 4-6 month absence. Rep. Reynolds and his staff have a strong work ethic and have always been very attentive to his constituents. Rep. Reynolds looks forward to continuing to fight for his constituents during the upcoming session.
Reynolds did not have a general election challenger, so he will win reelection unopposed. It appears that taxpayers in House District 27 will not have adequate representation now or during the next session because under state law, despite being incarcerated for the duration of the legislative session, Reynolds doesn’t have to resign. Texas Election Code only requires resignations for felony convictions, so Reynolds will hold his seat while representing behind bars.