Montgomery County Sheriff Rand Henderson ordered state Rep. Ron Reynolds released from jail Friday after less than four months of incarceration — and four days before the start of the 86th session of the Texas Legislature.
The sheriff gave Reynolds credit for good conduct, in curtailing his one-year sentence for convictions on five misdemeanor counts of illegal legal client solicitation, or barratry, spokesman Scott Spencer said.
“Rep. Reynolds received no [more] consideration or privileges than any other misdemeanor prisoner received,” Spencer said in a statement he issued to reporters. “He maintained a job while incarcerated and was a model inmate with no incidents.”
Reynolds, 45, represents District 27, which comprises Missouri City, pieces of Houston and Sugar Land. He managed to file 21 bills from jail for the upcoming session.
The ranking member of the House Environmental Regulations committee has teed up bills to impose greenhouse gas emission fees on utilities to pay for energy efficiency programs as well as a statewide $15 minimum wage and free pre-kindergarten for children in qualifying low-income families.
Reynolds did not reply to a call by The Texas Monitor to ask about his release. When the Texas Tribune texted Reynolds after his release Friday and asked him if he would be on hand when the session starts Tuesday, he replied with a “thumbs up” emoji.
As the The Texas Monitor has reported, Reynolds turned himself in to begin serving his sentence on Sept. 7, saying he was determined to secure a release before the start of the session. Spencer said at the time that Reynolds could earn three days of good-behavior credit for every day served, because he was considered a low-level defender.
For three years, Reynolds fought his conviction for taking part in a scheme to drive clients to his personal injury law practice.
The conviction had little impact on his popularity in the district. In jail in November, Reynolds, running unopposed, won a fifth two-year term to the Texas House with 47,305 votes. Voters had given him a large majority in the Democratic primary in March and emphatically re-elected him in 2016, a year after his conviction.
Reynolds comes into this session as the most-fined elected official in Texas by far, owing $52,500 for years of neglecting to file legally required campaign finance reports, according to the most recent records from the Texas Ethics Commission.
Where the money to pay those fines will come from is not certain. The state Board of Disciplinary Appeals in 2016 upheld the suspension of his law license that came with his conviction the year before.
According to the State Bar of Texas, Reynolds is not eligible to practice law in the state because his license was suspended for “disciplinary reasons.”
Mark Lisheron can be reached at [email protected].