Special Prosecutors’ Pay Is Delaying Ken Paxton’s Trial On Securities Fraud Charges

A Houston Chronicle reporter says Paxton allies on the Collin County Commissioners Court ruled against paying the prosecutors’ $300 per hour rate. The lawyers may walk if the ruling stands.

By Jill AmentDecember 5, 2018 2:55 pm,

A team of lawyers working to prosecute indicted Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton says their case is in jeopardy after a judge ruled last month the attorneys were getting paid too much. The team is asking for a court to reconsider the ruling.

Andrea Zelinski is a state bureau reporter for the Houston Chronicle, and says the charges against Paxton have been around for over three years but he’s yet to go to trial.

“Paxton is charged with two felony counts of securities fraud and then one other lesser charge for failing to register as a securities adviser,” Zelinski says.

Now, she says a judge in Collin County, where a grand jury indicted Paxton in 2016, doesn’t want to pay the three special prosecutors the $300 per hour the county originally agreed to pay them.

“They billed [the county] back in 2016, and they had been paid about $200,000. But then, when they billed again in 2017, the county said, ‘Hold the phone, we don’t want to pay this,'” Zelinksi says.

Zelinski says the prosecutors argue their fee is standard.

“This also has to cover their overhead costs … so it’s not just for this individual lawyer, there are other costs associated with that,” Zelinski says.

She says the primary criticism about the pay is coming from members of Collin County Commissioners Court, some of whom she says are Paxton allies.

“Several members on the Commissioners Court have been involved in fundraisers for Attorney General Paxton at one point or another,” Zelinski says. “To some extent, it’s Paxton country, I mean, this is where he’s from, this is where he’s made his name as a politician for years.”

She says the case against Paxton seems to be “unraveling.” She says the court’s ruling against the prosecutors was firm, though there were a few judges on the court who dissented.

“The special prosecutors are gonna have to have quite an argument to get the court to reconsider,” Zelinski says.

For now, the prosecutors are waiting to hear if the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals will hear the case. Zelinski says if that happens, then there will be another long waiting period for that court to make any decision. If the appeals court decides not to hear the case, then the decision goes to the Harris County judge currently assigned to Paxton’s case.

“[He’ll] have to set a new pay, which is gonna be limited … to $2,000 pretrial work, which, obviously, that’s a big difference,” Zelinski says.

She says the special prosecutors have hinted that they wouldn’t accept that fee. In that case, the judge would have to find a new prosecutor who would have to learn the ins and outs of Paxton’s case, including securities fraud laws.

“It could be a long time before Attorney General Paxton gets his day in court,” Zelinski says.

Written by Caroline Covington.