Since his criminal indictment in July 2015, the Texas attorney general has seen delay after delay in his case, including a side dispute over prosecutor pay that has derailed the prosecution for well over a year.
by Emma Platoff
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has been under a legal cloud for years, awaiting trial on felony securities fraud charges. But since his criminal indictment in July 2015, Paxton has seen delay after delay in his case, including a side dispute over prosecutor pay that has derailed the prosecution for well over a year. With the charges dogging him, he narrowly won reelection in 2018.
First signs of trouble
In April, during Paxton’s bid to become the Republican nominee for attorney general, The Texas Tribune obtains documents showing he was not registered with the state board while he was being paid to solicit clients for a North Texas financial services firm. Paxton’s campaign launches an internal review to determine whether he had broken any laws. Soon after, the Texas State Securities Board reprimands Paxton for soliciting investment clients without being registered. He is fined $1,000 and signs a disciplinary order without disputing its findings.
Spring – Summer 2015
Criminal case emerges
After Collin County District Attorney Greg Willis recuses himself from the investigation because he knows Paxton, a GOP judge appoints special prosecutors Brian Wice and Kent Schaffer and agrees to pay them $300 per hour. Prosecutors begin to build their case against Paxton, now sworn in as attorney general. News breaks that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating Servergy, a McKinney tech firm Paxton had invested in. In July, Paxton is indicted by a Collin County grand jury. In late August, Paxton pleads not guilty.
Special prosecutor pay dispute begins
In December, Paxton donor Jeff Blackard sues, arguing that the county is paying the special prosecutors too much.
Cost disputes continue
In February, the Texas Ethics Commission rules that Paxton may not accept out-of-state donations to fund his legal defense. Because the charges are unrelated to his public office, Paxton also cannot use campaign funds. Questions emerge about how he is funding his top-dollar legal defense.
Federal charges emerge
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission files civil charges against Paxton for allegedly misleading investors in a technology company. Paxton releases a video defending himself and calling the state’s prosecution political. In June, he fails to get the state’s criminal charges against him dismissed by an appeals court.
Friends fund Paxton’s defense
Trial set for May
After Paxton fails to get the state’s criminal charges against him dismissed, his trial is set for May 2017.
Paxton cleared of SEC charges; state criminal trial moved, delayed
In Paxton’s biggest win yet, a federal judge throws out the federal securities fraud case against him.
Collin County stops halts prosecutors’ payments
The Collin County Commissioners Court votes to cease payments to the special prosecutors working on the Paxton case.
Court voids payment to prosecutors
The Dallas Court of Appeals voids a six-figure payment to the special prosecutors, threatening the future of the case.
Trial delayed again
A new judge, Robert Johnson of Harris County, agrees to delay the trial for the third time as prosecutors argue they should not have to go to court before they collect a paycheck
With pay dispute pending, trial remains delayed
Paxton wins reelection; pay ruling imperils case against him
Paxton runs for reelection against Democrat Justin Nelson, a formidable opponent who centers his campaign on the indictment. Weeks after Paxton narrowly wins a second term, the Court of Criminal Appeals sides against the prosecutors in the pay dispute, ruling that the six-figure payments they had expected fell outside legal limits. The prosecutors ask the high court to reconsider its decision to ensure the court’s proceedings “appear fair to all who observe them.”
Court upholds ruling against Paxton prosecutors
After sitting on the motion for six months, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals declines to reconsider its ruling, leaving the future of the prosecution in question.
Paxton’s defense team asks to move case back to Collin County
Paxton’s defense attorneys ask a Harris County trial judge to move the case back to his hometown of Collin County. Meanwhile, the prosecutors keep the pay dispute running, asking the judge for a private hearing on the pay issue.