Harris County hearing hints at Paxton’s fate

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(Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

HOUSTON – Attorney General Ken Paxton’s first hearing in Harris County was delayed for an hour and a half by a hearing in another case that ran long, while a decision on when to set his trial will be delayed for another month.

For all that was decided in the Paxton hearing – nothing – it’s the other case on the docket Thursday afternoon that might have provided more insight into Paxton’s fate.

The hearing attracted ample media attention, as it was Paxton’s first appearance before Judge Robert Johnson, who inherited the case from Judge George Gallagher, the judge who transferred the securities fraud case down from Collin County, and then tried to follow it.

Johnson’s first order of business was to ask each side to give him a written summary of all that has transpired in the case. Those summaries are due July 7, and could well shape what comes afterward.

The private attorneys who are prosecuting Paxton under a previous court order used the hearing to ask the judge to delay the trial until an appeals court somewhere – they hope – orders Collin County to pay them.

Paxton’s attorneys pointed out that Gallagher had already rejected much the same request earlier this year.

But Johnson didn’t even want to wade that far into the case until he’s got his bearings.

Johnson is new on the bench, a Democrat and former defense attorney who was elected last fall, so he hasn’t had long to establish a reputation. He displayed an even demeanor and careful manner in the hearings Thursday, but there may be one glimmer of insight provided by the sentencing hearing preceding Paxton’s.

This was a case, one gathered, in which a prostitute had double-parked outside her building, blocking in a young lady who called her father for assistance. There was some sort of confrontation that ensued, and the defendant then ran over the father, nearly killing him and putting him in the intensive care unit for 32 days.

The defendant had pleaded guilty without so much as a plea deal in place. The point of the hearing was to determine whether the defendant would receive any jail time, or merely probation. The prosecutor could be heard afterward speculating that he thought the defendant was likely to get probation.

Johnson then, one might infer, does not appear to be a hanging judge.

The next court date for Paxton is July 27.

Jon Cassidy can be reached at [email protected]org.

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Jon Cassidy is a reporter for The Texas Monitor and a contributing editor for The American Spectator. He has been an investigative reporter for Watchdog.org and an editor and reporter for The Orange County Register. His work has also appeared in The Wall Street Journal, City Journal, The Federalist, Fox News, Chronicles, Reason, and other publications. He was a 2014 Robert Novak Journalism Fellow, and is a graduate of the University of Southern California. He and his wife Michelle live just outside Houston with their two children.

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