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Paxton prosecutors mocked for threatening to quit

By   /   March 17, 2017  /   News  /   No Comments

Part 17 of 17 in the series The Problematic Paxton Prosecution
AP file photo

QUITTING TIME? The prosecutors targeting Ken Paxton are threatening to drop out.

The special prosecutors pursuing Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton threatened to withdraw from the case this week if the upcoming trial is not postponed until they get paid.

The court-appointed prosecutors – Brian Wice, Kent Schaffer, and Nocole DeBorde – have submitted invoices for $575,105.99 since taking the case.

After an appeals court held up payment of the most recent $205,000 invoice over questions about the legality of their arrangement, the prosecutors have begun stalling.

Since Watchdog’s report that their case is based on an “assumption” that a political opponent of Paxton says he made years ago, the prosecutors have made repeated excuses about why they can’t win a trial in Collin County.

In court papers filed this week, they warn Judge George Gallagher that if “the Court denies this motion for continuance, it will be compelled to appoint new attorneys pro tem.”

That was in response to an argument filed by Paxton’s team that mocked their argument.

“Never before has a Texas prosecutor submitted a bill to the county he or she serves for over $500,000.00 for a single case. Never before has a Texas prosecutor’s payment for a single case been so outrageous as to be stayed by the Court of Appeals. And never before has a Texas prosecutor’s response to that stay been an attempt to delay the proceeding for which they were hired because a quarter of a million dollars wasn’t enough to get them in the courtroom,” defense attorney Dan Cogdell writes.

Cogdell cites two cases in Harris County where the three attorneys served as court-appointed prosecutors, yet didn’t submit bills until after trial.

“No one in a democratic society should be expected to work for free,” the prosecutors argue.

Cogdell countered that “that if appointed defense lawyers can do it for every single case on their docket … then the attorneys pro tem should be able to do it with this one case.”

Paxton’s attorneys say that no trial in Texas has ever been delayed over the prosecutors not being paid.

“While reasons such as locating a witness or being unable to serve an arrest warrant on a defendant have been found” as reasons for delay, “a lack of a payment on a prosecutor’s request certainly does not,” Cogdell wrote.

“Indeed, no case in the history of Texas courts has a budget of this magnitude ever been proposed for a single prosecution,” he continued. “No Texas prosecutor has ever been paid even remotely close to this amount for an entire docket’s worth of cases, let alone one single matter. … They have consistently proclaimed that the litigation would remain undeterred by the lawsuit regarding their fees. Now, having been paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for two court appearances, they suddenly claim hardship proceeding to try the case .. . which is what they were hired to do.

Jon Cassidy reports for the Texas Bureau of Watchdog.org Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @jpcassidy000.

Part of 17 in the series The Problematic Paxton Prosecution

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Jon Cassidy was a former Houston-based reporter for Watchdog.org.