Just six weeks before jury selection is set to begin in the trial of Ken Paxton, the special prosecutors on the case are asking to have it delayed until they receive hundreds of thousands of dollars from Collin County taxpayers. The move is the latest proof that, for the Paxton prosecutors, the case is all about the money.
In 2015, Collin County District Judge Scott Becker appointed Brian Wice and Kent Schaffer, two criminal attorneys from Houston, to prosecute Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton for alleged securities law violations after Collin County DA Greg Willis recused himself. On a handshake deal, Becker agreed to pay the pair $300 per hour on the case, a rate that appears to violate state law.
Despite the recent dismissal of a civil case against Paxton brought by the Obama administration’s Securities and Exchange Commission that was based on identical charges, Wice and Schaffer are pushing forward on their even-harder-to-prove criminal indictments. The reason? There are hundreds of thousands – even millions – of them.
When the special prosecutors submitted their most recent bill for more than $200,000, local taxpayer Jeff Blackard sued and the Dallas Court of Appeals issued a stay preventing Collin County from paying until the court has a chance to more thoroughly review whether the lawyers’ high rate violates state law.
Now the special prosecutors are asking the court to delay Paxton’s trial until the Court of Appeals agrees they will be paid the full $300 per hour. There’s no word on what they will do if the court permanently shuts down the payments.
If they are paid, it will bring the tab for Wice, Schaffer, and several other attorneys on the Paxton case to more than $600,000.
In a motion for continuance, the prosecutors admit that preparation for Paxton’s trial will take “hundreds of hours.” With three attorneys currently working the case, each being paid $300 per hour, that’s a confession their tab will soon eclipse $1 million if the case moves forward.
This move comes on the heels of an outlandish motion by the prosecutors to have the case moved out of Collin County in which they alleged a bizarre conspiracy theory that all of their critics on social media are united in an attempt to “taint” the jury pool in Collin County. The motion, which was summarily denied, appeared little more than an effort to attack the prosecutors’ critics in print while running up their taxpayer-funded tab.
The special prosecutors also recently reneged on their agreement with Paxton’s defense team to handle all of the charges against Paxton in one trial. Now they are saying they want two trials. That means Collin County taxpayers will have to pay double for everything if the case moves forward.
With so many ways to increase the size of their bill, it’s imperative to Wice and Schaffer that they get their payment guaranteed before they are forced to put in any hard work.
On the other hand, Empower Texans General Counsel Tony McDonald believes that Wice and Schaffer’s decision to delay the trial actually stems from the fact that their case is falling apart and their lead witness is ducking for cover. That very well may be a factor.
However, in a stunning admission, the prosecutors concede in their own motion that their case is not the sort of “worthy endeavor” that would justify being handled on a pro bono basis.
“At some point in their legal careers, the Special Prosecutors have taken on pro bono cases where the facts, circumstances, and client compelled the conclusion that it was a worthy endeavor. This is not such a case. Unlike any of those pro bono cases, the Special Prosecutors’ interest in seeking justice in this case is business – not personal.”
They are openly saying they are in the case in order to make money. It’s just business.
That’s the reason why it is so important that the Collin County commissioners and the Texas judiciary take control of this case and shut Wice and Schaffer down. They are making a mockery of the Texas court system by pushing forward a groundless, politically-driven prosecution based on their personal financial interest.
Texas cannot allow the criminal justice system to be used as a money machine.