Paxton Prosecutors on Tilt, Want out of Collin County

On August 1, 2015, Kent Schaffer and Brian Wice took to the pages of the New York Times to announce they had successfully convinced a Collin County Grand Jury to indict Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on First Degree Felony securities charges. The pair went on the record with Times reporter Manny Fernandez despite the fact that the Paxton indictments would not be unsealed for several days.

Now, 18 months later, with their case against Paxton unraveling and with Schaffer under fire in federal court as an unindicted co-conspirator to a criminal motorcycle gang, the prosecutors are lashing out at critics with absurd conspiracy theories and asking to have Paxton’s trial moved out of Collin County.

The pair of prosecutors seem convinced they will lose the trial if they are forced to convince a jury of Paxton’s peers in Collin County to convict him. Of course, they still want Collin County taxpayers to be on the hook.

Schaffer and Wice are both criminal defense attorneys from Houston with an affinity for creating media circuses around their cases. They were appointed by Collin County Judge Scott Becker in 2015 as special prosecutors to investigate Paxton. At that time, Becker made a handshake agreement with them that they would be paid $300 per hour for their work, an amount that violates state law and Collin County rules.

If the two prosecutors get their wish on the fees and the change of venue, it will mean Collin County Taxpayers will likely pay over $1,000,000 for two Houston criminal defense attorneys to try Paxton in front of a Tarrant County Judge, in a third county yet to be named.

The motion shows the two attorneys are fully on tilt, as they lash out in unprofessional ways against Texas Scorecard’s coverage of the prosecution as well as that of Watchdog.org and, indeed, even mainstream media outlets that have quoted the prosecutors’ critics.

According to Schaffer and Wice, all media coverage and social media activity criticizing them, no matter where it occurs, is part of a conspiracy by Tim Dunn, Chairman of the Empower Texans board of directors, to “taint” the jury pool in Collin County.

As they bounce from critic to critic, labeling them “varsity cheerleaders,” “propagandists,” “tub-thumpers,” and “flacks,” the pair of prosecutors manage to make some truly absurd claims.

For instance, Schaffer and Wice claim that Dunn’s decision to publish a column in the Midland Reporter-Telegram was designed to influence readers 350 miles away in Plano.

In the meantime, Paxton’s attorneys pointed out Wice and Shaffer’s hypocrisy when they revealed the motion to transfer venue was leaked to the Dallas Morning News before it was even shared with the defense legal team.

“It is particularly troubling that one newspaper, in particular, published a detailed, researched article about the Motion to Transfer Venue before it was even filed and received by Mr. Paxton’s attorneys,” Paxton attorney Philip Hilder said in a statement. “The special prosecutors are using this newspaper to do the same things they accuse Mr. Paxton of.”

It would certainly be a fortuitous development if Collin County taxpayers were reading the Midland Reporter-Telegram more often than the Dallas Morning News, but that claim beggars belief.

Most absurd is Wice and Schaffer’s concern over the reputations of their alleged “victims,” State Rep. Byron Cook (R–Corsicana) and his business partner, Joel Hochberg of Florida.

The two are millionaires and sophisticated investors. According to their theory of the case, Paxton alleged victimized the two men when he failed to correct their assumption that he was not being compensated by a company he encouraged them to invest in.

Unlike the case against Paxton, a Collin County lawsuit alleges that Cook and Hochberg actually committed fraud against real estate investors and business partners in a scheme to flip mineral interests.

Much like their inability to actually point to a lie told by Paxton, the two prosecutors are unable to point out any inaccuracies in Watchdog.org or Texas Scorecard’s reporting.

Schaffer and Wice are desperately lashing out because their case is unraveling.

The Dallas Court of Appeals recently cut-off payments to the pair and will soon take up the issue of whether Collin County taxpayers are lawfully on the hook for the prosecution. Likewise, a federal court appears on the verge of dismissing an identical civil case brought again Paxton by the Obama administration Securities and Exchange Commission for a second time.

That case is going sideways because the prosecutors’ “victim” and top witness is backpedaling on his testimony.  Cook appears to be changing his tune in an attempt to protect himself from financial and criminal liability related to the Collin County fraud case against him.

In the motion to transfer venue, Schaffer and Wice concede that they are unable to give Paxton a fair trial in Collin County. That’s a confession they cannot obtain a legitimate guilty verdict. Those with power to shut down the Paxton Prosecution need to end this travesty of the criminal justice system and send Kent Schaffer and Brian Wice home to Houston.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tony McDonald serves as General Counsel for Empower Texans. A licensed and practicing attorney, Tony received his J.D. in 2012 from UT Law School. While in school, Tony served as Senior Vice Chairman for Young Conservatives of Texas and helped manage its legislative affairs. During the 83rd Texas Legislature he served as Chief of Staff for Rep. Jonathan Stickland. Tony resides in Austin and attends St. Paul Lutheran Church.

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