If the Christmas spirit of giving has grabbed you and you've been cruising crowdfunding sites to find out what person with what weird disease to give to, we suggest you go another direction and take a look at State Rep. Ron Reynolds's Gofundme page, which aims to raise $25,000 for Reynolds's appeal of his recent barratry conviction.
We guess we can't blame a dude for raising scratch to fight a conviction he thinks is unfair. But while we're used to politicians raising funds for elections, there's just something gauche about a congressman asking the public to help him in a private legal matter. Also, using a family photo with the three adorable kids seems especially contrived, as if the children are merely props. Why drag them into this mess?
The Missouri City rep was hit with one year in jail and a several-thousand-dollar fine for his role in what prosecutors called an "ambulance chasing for hire" scheme. Seven other lawyers were also accused of being part of the racket, but they struck deals with prosecutors and avoided jail time. (We wonder if Reynolds is now kicking himself for not taking a deal).
Prosecutors said the attorneys in the scheme employed a four-time felon named Robert Ramirez Valdez Sr., who combed through police reports and persuaded victims to hire one of the attorneys. Prosecutors also claimed that Valdez, who testified against Reynolds last month, was paid about $1,000 per client referred to Reynolds's Bellaire law firm.
Reynolds told Texas Lawyer that he had no idea what Valdez, who ran several chiropractic clinics, was up to; Reynolds said he believed Valdez was just referring patients to him, which is not illegal.
As for the Gofundme page, Reynolds told Texas Lawyer that his friends "wanted to make sure that I had the resources to get the best appellate attorneys out there." (As of Thursday morning, Reynolds had raised $2,255).
But Joel Daniels, the Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney who prosecuted Reynolds, feels differently. According to Texas Lawyer:
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Daniels said he thinks that the gofundme account is embarrassing because testimony in the bond hearing showed that Reynolds drives a Mercedes and lives in an expensive house.
"I think that Mr. Reynolds is, during a season of giving, asking for people to give money to him rather than their favorite charity or house of worship," he said. "He seems to be looking for more ways to embarrass himself in particular and the legal profession in general."
But Reynolds said he spent $150,000 on a trial for the same charges last year, which resulted in a mistrial. According to the article:
He decided to represent himself in this misdemeanor trial because of financial concerns. He said he doesn't devote himself full time to his law practice because he spends so much time on his work as a state representative.
"The fact is I did not solicit the help. It was asked by a friend, and to be quite frank with you, I thought it was a noble gesture and a good faith effort to help," Reynolds said. "I'm not too proud to say, 'Yeah, this would help me support my legal defense on appeal,' because of the unjust verdict that happened."
It's good to know he didn't solicit the help. That would be tacky.