The judge overseeing the prosecution of Attorney General Ken Paxton on charges of securities fraud said today that he will issue a ruling by noon Thursday on three motions aimed at stopping the case from proceeding to trial, which is scheduled for May.
Judge George Gallagher also imposed a gag order on both sides, and expressed concern about a fundraising event involving Collin County commissioners and Jeffory Blackard, a local real estate developer and Paxton supporter who has filed a lawsuit challenging the legality of the six-figure payments to the court-appointed prosecutors in the Paxton case.
Gallagher said there was “some sort of ethical problem” with the fundraiser, according to reporters with the Dallas Morning News and the Texas Tribune who attended the hearing. The judge did not elaborate.
The Dallas Morning News, though, found that the fundraiser was one to benefit Paxton co-hosted by four Collin County commissioners and several state lawmakers which took place in 2013 — months before Paxton was elected Attorney General and a year and a half before his indictment.
Paxton’s attorneys have filed a motion to dismiss the case, alleging hanky-panky with the grand jury that indicted him in July 2015. The exact allegations remain secret in connection with this issue, as the motion is sealed, and Gallagher closed his court to the public for two hours while the matter was discussed.
It’s already known that Chris Oldner, the former judge who empaneled that jury, entered the grand jury room on the day the jury indicted Paxton. While irregular, an appellate court found it to be insufficient reason to dismiss the case.
The court-appointed prosecutors in the case — Houston attorneys Kent Schaffer, Brian Wice, and Nicole DeBorde — have filed two motions: one to move the trial to a venue away from Paxton’s home turf of Collin County, and the other to delay the trial until they have been paid for all the invoices they’ve submitted.
Although the Bill of Rights guarantees the accused the right to trial in the “district” where the crime is alleged to have taken place, the Supreme Court has not ruled on whether that right exists at the state level.
Texas law assumes that it does not.
Schaffer, Wice, and DeBorde have submitted an invoice for $205,000 covering their work in 2016 for which they have not been paid. They have already been paid some $370,000.
Paxton is accused of a registration violation and of not disclosing that he received stock as a commission for referring investors to a McKinney-based technology startup.
The prosecutors allege that such disclosure is required under Texas law.
Paxton, facing one third-degree and two first-degree felonies, also faces the punishments that go with it: a maximum sentence of 99 years in prison and tens of thousands in fines.
Photo: Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton arrives at a press conference where he announced Texas’ lawsuit to challenge President Obama’s transgender bathroom order in Austin, Texas, Wednesday May 25, 2016. (Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP)
Jon Cassidy can be reached at [email protected]