Unpaid, prosecutors seek to postpone Paxton trial
Prosecutors on Thursday asked a state judge to postpone Attorney General Ken Paxton’s criminal trial, set to begin in less than two months, because a ruling from another court has blocked them from getting paid for more than a year.
“No one in a democratic society should be expected to work for free, and it would be fundamentally unfair for this court, or, for that matter, the defense, to require the special prosecutors to work for free,” the prosecutors told state District Judge George Gallagher in a motion.
The court-appointed prosecutors blamed Jeffory Blackard — “a vocal supporter, good friend and political donor” of Paxton — for blocking the payments.
Blackard sued after the prosecutors submitted a $205,191 bill for 13 months of work, including all of 2016, prompting the Dallas-based 5th Court of Appeals to issue a late-January order that stopped Collin County from making payment.
“Blackard hopes that he will be able to ultimately derail this prosecution by defunding it,” the motion for a continuance said. “Blackard is now one appellate court ruling away from doing what the state believes no one before him has ever done: shutting down a lawfully constituted criminal prosecution by cutting off funding to the special prosecutors.”
Noting that it will take hundreds of hours to meet court-determined pretrial deadlines, prosecutors Kent Schaffer, Brian Wice and Nicole Deborde asked Gallagher to set Paxton’s trial for 60 days after the appeals court decides whether they can be paid for past and future work on the case.
Based on previous actions by the appeals court, the prosecutors estimated that Paxton’s trial could be held “no later than” Sept. 1.
Paxton’s lawyers said Thursday that they will oppose the request for a delay.
Prosecutors said they will first try Paxton for failing to register with state securities regulators, a third-degree felony. Paxton also was charged with two counts of securities fraud related to private business deals in 2011.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (right) smiles during his pretrial hearing at Collin County Courthouse in McKinney, Texas, last month. Prosecutors have asked to postpone his trial.