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Paxton’s first day in court

And they’re off!

Best mugshot ever

Best mugshot ever

Clashing at a pretrial hearing Tuesday, lawyers for Attorney General Ken Paxton dismissed the criminal case against him as the result of a “rogue prosecution,” while prosecutors accused Paxton of relying on “nonsense” arguments and a string of legal technicalities to challenge the charges of securities law violations.

State District Judge George Gallagher allowed the frequently pointed give and take during a 5½-hour hearing that could determine whether Paxton goes to trial next year on charges linked to private business deals he brokered before becoming attorney general in January.

Gallagher, however, declined to issue any rulings on defense lawyers’ multiple requests to dismiss three felony charges against Paxton, saying he will issue written orders at an unspecified future date.

The judge also left one matter pending — a request from prosecutors to amend all three indictments.

Defense lawyer Phillip Hilder called it an improper do-over that acknowledged the weakness of the case against Paxton. Prosecutor Brian Wice said such changes are common, allowed by law and designed to give Paxton’s lawyers what they asked for — more information about the charges against him.

Defense lawyers have 10 days to file a response, and Gallagher said another hearing on the issue was possible.

An earlier Statesman story recapped what the sides were arguing about.

The pretrial hearing, which Paxton will attend, will focus on 10 defense filings arguing that the charges must be dismissed because, among other things:

  • The State Securities Board, which has primary jurisdiction over security crimes, did not refer the Paxton matter for prosecution.
  • The failure-to-register charge violated the statute of limitations and subjected Paxton to double jeopardy because the securities board had already reprimanded him for the infraction.
  • The failure-to-register law is unconstitutional because it is vague and cannot give fair notice about what acts are illegal.

But the biggest point of contention focused on defense accusations that the original judge in charge of the Paxton case engaged in “purposeful and cumulative efforts to subvert the grand jury process, all to Paxton’s detriment,” a Paxton motion said, adding that tossing out all three indictments “is the only appropriate remedy for this conduct.”

Before recusing himself from the case in July, state District Judge Chris Oldner improperly formed the grand jury that handled Paxton’s case by asking potential jurors to raise their hands if they were willing to serve, then choosing only from that pool, the defense argued.

In addition, defense lawyers accused Oldner — who, like Paxton, is a Republican — of improperly divulging secret grand jury details, including telling his wife about Paxton’s indictments one week before they were made public. Oldner also broke several rules in handling Paxton’s case and ordered the identity of grand jurors to remain secret, which is “contrary to Texas law” and hindered Paxton’s ability to challenge the makeup of the jury, a motion said.

Prosecutors Kent Schaffer, Nicole DeBorde and Wice defended Oldner’s handling of the case, arguing that nothing improper occurred and that Oldner’s actions did not entitle Paxton to avoid facing serious criminal charges.

Paxton’s rights as a defendant, prosecutors argued, also did not entitle him “to recklessly and cruelly injure Judge Oldner, who now must bear a scar needlessly inflicted by Paxton’s unsupported, unsupportable and unwarranted accusation that formed the centerpiece of his reed-thin motion to quash these lawfully obtained indictments.”

According to the DMN Crime Blog, Judge Oldner will be a candidate for the Court of Criminal Appeals in 2016. I’ll bet this will add a little spice to that campaign, especially if he has a primary opponent.

There’s one other point of contention in all this:

“We had objected, as you’ll recall, after the arraignment to the use of cameras in the courtroom, and we continue to object,” Bill Mateja, one of Paxton’s attorneys, told the Chronicle on Monday. “Our understanding is that Collin County local rules are that cameras are not allowed in the courtroom. There is an exception with the parties’ consent, and we have not consented.”

When asked if he expected the issue to impact Tuesday’s hearing, Mateja answered, “I don’t know. Truthfully, I have not heard anything.”

When asked what the Paxton team would do if they entered the courtroom Tuesday and a camera was present, Mateja added, “I’m not going to comment any further. We’ll take that up if that situation arises.”

I’m not sure where that stands. I presume we’ll know more after the matter of the refiled indictments, or should I say the re-refiled indictments, is settled. The Chron and WFAA have more.

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One Comment

  1. […] saga, and it might provoke someone on Team Paxton to say something indiscreet. Plus, as noted here, Judge Oldner will be a candidate for the Court of Criminal Appeals next year, and you can be sure […]