Prosecutors seek another delay in Paxton trial

Ken Paxton

HOUSTON — The trial of Attorney General Ken Paxton may be delayed yet again, thanks to the prosecution.

Both sides are expected in court in Harris County Wednesday to argue over scheduling.

Paxton is insisting on his right to a speedy trial, but the court-appointed prosecutors are asking District Judge Robert Johnson to move back the Dec. 11 start date of the trial.

The prosecutors want a delay long enough to see the resolution of separate litigation over their invoices in this case.

After total billing in the case reached $575,000, the Collin County Commissioners Court challenged the legality of a court order requiring them to pay the most recent $205,000 invoice. The commissioners won at the appellate level, but now the high Court of Criminal Appeals has decided to consider the matter.

Since their most recent payment of $205,000 was halted, the prosecutors contend they’ve been forced to cut back on their time preparing for the case. They will “need to spend many more hours preparing for trial to ensure they can adequately represent the interests of the state.” But they want to be paid for it.

The prosecutors — Brian Wice, Kent Schaffer, and Nicole DeBorde — also brought up the fact that the Harris County criminal courthouse was damaged during Hurricane Harvey, forcing the criminal and civil courts to share facilities. The prosecutors argued that “defendants who are now in custody” ought to be given priority over Paxton, who is out on bail.

If the prosecutors’ request is granted, it would mark the third time this year that the trial date has been pushed back over their complaints about pay.

“Each time Paxton has been ready and anxious for his day in court. Each time he has asserted his right to a speedy trial. Yet each time the attorneys pro tem have attempted to further delay the proceeding,” his attorneys wrote in a court filing.

The payment question doesn’t affect the prosecutors’ ability to try the case, they argued.

“The attorneys pro tem have been paid upwards of a quarter of a million dollars for the handling of a single matter. Never has a single Texas prosecution amounted such a monumental bill.”

The hearing is supposed to take place Wednesday afternoon.

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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.