The prosecutors in the criminal case against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton have asked the judge to delay his Dec. 11 trial, citing the havoc raised by Hurricane Harvey and the ongoing legal dispute over whether the appointed prosecutors should be paid for work on the case.
Paxton’s legal team opposed the request, telling state District Judge Robert Johnson that the trial has already been delayed twice — from May 1 because prosecutors succeeded in getting the case moved to Harris County, and from Sept. 11, when Paxton succeeded in replacing the Fort Worth judge who had originally been assigned to the case.
“Each time Paxton has been ready and anxious for his day in court. Each time he has asserted his right to a speedy trial,” defense lawyers told Johnson in a legal brief filed Tuesday.
Paxton was charged in the summer of 2015 with two counts of securities fraud and one count of failure to register with state securities regulators linked to private business deals in 2011 and 2012.
The prosecutors argued that Paxton was to blame for most of the delays in the case by filing a series of pretrial motions and appeals in an unsuccessful attempt to have the charges thrown out and a successful bid to replace his trial judge.
“Because Paxton’s pretrial filings added at least a year to this litigation, this factor weighs heavily against him,” they told Johnson.
The flooding and storm damage to Harris County’s Criminal Justice Center — which will be closed for months, requiring criminal cases to be shoehorned into existing dockets in civil and juvenile courtrooms — also argue in favor of a trial delay because defendants who are jailed while awaiting trial should have priority access to the limited courtroom space, they said.
“This act of God is a neutral factor that cannot be held against the state,” the prosecutors wrote.
The prosecutors also cited “the nonstop effort” by a Paxton supporter and Paxton’s political allies on the Collin County Commissioners Court “to derail this prosecution by defunding it.”
After county officials sued, the Dallas-based 5th Court of Appeals in August blocked payment of about $200,000 to the prosecutors for work done in 2016. The Court of Criminal Appeals halted that ruling while it considers whether to accept an appeal by prosecutors.
It could take months for a final decision, the prosecutors argued, adding that they have already been forced to curtail trial preparations for lack of payment.
In their response to the delay request, Paxton’s lawyers accused the prosecutors of whining about their lack of pay and said the issue should not overrule their client’s right to a speedy trial. They also offered to move the case yet again, suggesting a new courthouse in Rockwall County, which is adjacent to Collin County, where Paxton lives and where he was originally charged.
“Fundamental fairness dictates that not only Paxton but the public are entitled to a determination of Paxton’s innocence or guilt. He is, after all, the top-ranking member of law-enforcement in the state,” defense lawyers told the judge.