Special Prosecutors Say "Team Paxton" Tainted Jury Pool in Securities Fraud Case

Special Prosecutors Say "Team Paxton" Tainted Jury Pool in Securities Fraud Case
Beth Cortez-Neavel/Flickr
In a scathing, literary court motion detailing Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's dogged attempts to convince everyone he is the innocent victim of a "political witch hunt," special prosecutors asked a Collin County judge to move Paxton's trial for felony securities fraud charges out of the county.

The reason: Paxton and his posse, special prosecutors argue, have spent the last 22 months tainting Collin County's jury pool, having "utilized every conceivable form of mass media available to vilify, malign, and defame the special prosecutors, the victims in the securities fraud counts, Byron Cook and Joel Hochberg, and, to add insult to injury, this Court," the prosecutors claimed.

Paxton was indicted on two felony counts of securities fraud in 2015, accused of soliciting Cook, Hochberg and other investors to invest in Severgy Inc. — without disclosing that he was making a commission on their investments, and had 10,000 shares in the McKinney-based tech company. Paxton is also accused in a third felony case of failing to register with state securities regulators. His trial is set for May 1 in Collin County.

But as special prosecutors Brian Wice, Kent Schaffer and Nicole DeBorde point out, Paxton is also "Collin County's favorite son," the first statewide elected official to hail from the county since 1866, who won the seat for attorney general with 66 percent of Collin County's vote. He also represented the county as a state lawmaker for 12 years. "In short, Paxton is a political powerhouse in Collin County where he enjoys the ultimate home field advantage," they wrote.

That's just the short of it, however. The special prosecutors go on to document "Team Paxton's" tireless crusade to turn the story of his criminal charges into a different, much more sympathetic one: about how a good-hearted, hardworking, honest man was framed and fell victim to a political witchunt, and about how three money-hungry, dishonest Democrat lawyers from Houston will stop at nothing to bring him down — just as long as they get their paychecks on a silver platter.

Along the way, according to the special prosecutors' motion, Paxton surrogates, spokespeople, key political donors or "cheerleaders" accused the prosecutors of "hijacking the criminal justice system to use it as a political weapon"; "destroy[ing] a good man's life while ripping off the [Collin County] taxpayers"; and "charging outrageous fees for a political vendetta that will outrage the taxpayers of Collin County." Former presidential candidate and Paxton pal Rick Santorum even said payments the court authorized for the special prosecutors were "raping the taxpayers."

Remember: these are the same taxpayers who will be called to serve on a Collin County jury...who will have to listen to evidence presented by prosecutors...whom they have been told to think are outrageous assholes trying to take their money and put their beloved hometown elected official in jail. (On that note: Paxton faces five to 99 years or life.)

"Team Paxton" went as far as suing the special prosecutors and various Collin County officials in attempt to block payment to the special prosecutors — not once, but twice — and even accused a sitting judge of conspiring to "secretly" pay the special prosecutors more than Collin County allows ($300 per hour). Jeffory Blackard, one of Paxton's most gracious campaign donors, was the first to file suit "on behalf of the taxpayers of Collin County." He even sued the court before withdrawing it as a defendant.

But despite losing the first suit, Paxton allies were not done yet. The Dallas Morning News obtained text messages between Collin County lawmakers seeking to stop payment to the prosecutors and saying, "We clearly want to help Ken." Then, Collin County Commissioners Court went so far to try to meet this goal that it voted to block payment to a Collin County public defender who had absolutely nothing to do with Paxton or the litigation against him, for no reason other than to "lay the legal groundwork" to later block payment to the special prosecutors, as the Morning News reported. (This plan later failed and the poor lawyer who got caught in the crossfire was ultimately paid.)

Blackard also tried to sue again to block payments, and, predictably, lost again. During a commissioners court meeting, where the body was expected to approve payments to the special prosecutors, a Paxton "soldier," Brian Newman, created a Facebook event, inviting nearly a hundred people to "encourage our elected Commissioners to Refuse [sic] this massive payment for an immoral prosecution of a great man." At the hearing, one woman even said that Jesus wouldn't want to see Ken Paxton prosecuted, and wouldn't want the special prosecutors to get paid.

Last, there's Ken Paxton himself, who, "to no one's amazement...has unhesitatingly used social media to spread his self-styled gospel to potential jurors in Collin County that he is the victim of, in the words of Team Paxton's varsity, a political hit job orchestrated by Special Prosecutors looking to pad their IRAs without regard to truth, justice, or the American way." Here's his "I'm standing and fighting" YouTube clip in defense of himself:
Read the full motion below, which also documents attacks made against the complainants in the case, Byron Cook and Joel Hochberg. Should the judge hearing the motion, Judge George Gallagher, be inclined, the special prosecutors asked that he move the trial on his own motion.

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Meagan Flynn is a staff writer at the Houston Press who, despite covering criminal justice and other political squabbles in Harris County, drinks only one small cup of coffee per day.
Contact: Meagan Flynn