Un­paid, pros­e­cu­tors seek to post­pone Pax­ton trial

Austin American-Statesman - - COMMUNITY NEWS - By Chuck Lin­dell clin­dell@states­man.com

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.

JAE S. LEE / THE DAL­LAS MORN­ING NEWS

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.

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