Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton was booked on felony fraud charges in 2015.
Think of it as the Passion of Ken Paxton
, the story the Texas Attorney General’s defense team and die-hard supporters have spun about a cabal of politicians, corrupt judges, and sleazy lawyers who have conspired to tank the career of an upstanding, God-fearing man with bogus felony fraud charges.
It’s a conspiracy that, as we’ve reported before
, starts to strain the brain the closer you look. And on Thursday, the lawyers prosecuting the case fired off another scorched-earth legal filing arguing that Paxton’s upcoming trial should be moved outside his North Texas home turf of Collin County, citing Paxton and his supporters’ “crusade to taint the Collin County jury pool.”
In their filing, the prosecutors take us through the nearly two-year long melodrama that has become the Paxton prosecution. Like the time Paxton’s legal team accused the judge who oversaw the grand jury that indicted him of criminal misconduct; or how, even after the Paxton legal team’s own failed attempt, the AG’s buddy and campaign donor sued
, twice, to keep Collin County from paying the prosecutors on the case; or that one time Paxton’s north Texas lawmaker buddies wanted to pressure the local county judge
to violate a court order and block funding for the Paxton prosecution team.
For those just catching up, the charges against Paxton, both in state criminal court and in a civil fraud case filed by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, allege that he duped a state lawmaker, Corsicana Republican State Rep. Byron Cook, and another investor named Joel Hochberg into dumping money into a North Texas tech company called Servergy Inc. Prosecutors claim Paxton convinced Cook and Hochberg to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in Servergy without disclosing that he himself was being paid by the company to do so, in violation of state securities laws. (The SEC has also accused Servergy of lying to its investors; falsely claiming its data servers had already been sold to huge companies like Amazon and Freescale, when that wasn't true; and of lying about the very servers it was hawking, falsely claiming they required 80 percent less cooling, energy and space than others on the market.)
By and large, the response by Paxton’s legal team, rather than addressing the actual charges against him, has been to attack pretty much everyone involved in his prosecution. Consider, for instance, the flood of allegations Paxton’s team unleashed early in the case against state District Court Judge Chris Oldner, a Republican judge who only oversaw the Collin County grand jury that indicted the AG. Among other charges, Paxton’s lawyers accused Oldner of somehow gaming the system to get the case in his court in order to squeeze out some shaky indictments against Texas’ top lawyer; in yet another legal lashing
, the prosecutors accused Team Paxton of coming dangerously close to erroneously accusing a judge of criminal misconduct.
Another strategy has been to block payment to the three Houston attorneys – Brian Wice, Kent Schaffer and Nicole DeBorde – who were appointed to handle Paxton’s prosecution because the local DA, a longtime buddy and sometimes business associate of Paxton’s, had to recuse himself from the case. After the defense team tried, and failed, to get the judge on the case to slash payment to the prosecutors, Paxton donor Jeffory Blackard filed not one but two lawsuits to block Collin County Commissioners from paying Paxton’s prosecutors. In their filing this week, the prosecutors cite the bombardment of blog posts from Paxton’s die hard conservative friends, right-wing media, and even high-profile supporters like failed presidential candidate Rick Santorum who have accused the court overseeing Paxton’s case not just of breaking the law but “raping the taxpayers” of Collin County (ironically, the legal fight to de-fund Paxton’s prosecution has already cost local taxpayers north of $100,000.)
“Some particularly virulent Facebook posts by members of Team Paxton have likened the Special Prosecutors to Satan, the evil-doer Haman in the Old Testament, and compared Paxton’s prosecution to the killing of Jesus,” the prosecutors write in their motion.
They also point to the attacks on one of the alleged victims
in the case, Rep. Byron Cook, including a lawsuit filed by Paxton supporters accusing Cook of fraud; Cook’s lawyers have called the case “nothing more than a vehicle to smear” Paxton’s victims and taint the jury pool. They also accuse a Team Paxton investigator of, in violation of court rules, turning over Texas Ranger investigation files in the case over to a reporter at the conservative site Watchdog.org (which the prosecutors, in their filing, call “Team Paxton’s most vocal and reliable flacks”), who promptly used them
to bolster the witch-hunt narrative of the case.
They call the efforts to demonize the prosecutors, judges, and alleged victims in the case a scheme “unparalleled and unprecedented in the annals of Texas criminal justice.”
The motion, if granted, will probably even further delay Paxton's trial, which had been set for early May, right in the heat of the legislative session. But if this week's filing from prosecutors is any indication, we're sure to see fireworks once these guys get into court.
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