Documents released Tuesday by the House impeachment managers reveal closer ties between the contractor who renovated Attorney General Ken Paxton’s home and Nate Paul, the financially troubled Austin real estate investor who was accused of bribing Paxton by paying for the work.
The contractor, Kevin Wood, swapped emails with Paul to provide updates about the home upgrades. The documents also show Wood was asked to testify in Paxton’s trial, but would have invoked his 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination.
“Guys just finished applying 2nd coat of paint sealer,” Wood wrote in one exchange with Paul, who asked for pictures.
House board of managers chair, Junction state Rep. Andrew Murr, and vice chair, Houston state Rep. Ann Johnson, said in a public letter that they were releasing the documents because of “the need to provide the highest level of transparency for the people of Texas.” The evidence didn’t come out during the two-week impeachment trial for a variety of reasons, they said, including time constraints and procedural decisions.
The documents released Tuesday show Wood performed the bulk of the house work and corresponded directly with Paul about the improvements, giving him updates and coordinating the use of storage facilities during the renovations. Wood’s attorney said he was never paid for the project.
Paxton’s lawyers argued during trial that the attorney general paid Cupertino Builders about $120,000 for the home upgrades, which they said proved he did not receive the work for free or as a bribe.
House prosecutors had alleged the six-figure wire transfer was a cover-up payment, made hours after Paxton’s top deputies reported their boss to federal authorities for the alleged bribery. Cupertino Builders had not yet filed organization papers in Texas and didn’t do so until weeks later, state records show. The company was dissolved less than two years later.
Cupertino Builders is managed by Narsimha Raju Sagiraju, known as Raj Kumar, an associate of Paul’s who was included as a target in the FBI’s 2019 probe into Paul’s companies, records released this summer showed. Paul has since been charged for allegedly lying to several banks about his financials, but has pleaded not guilty.
Sagiraju is listed in Wood’s phone contacts as “Raj Nate’s guy.” Sagiraju was also asked to testify and planned to plead the fifth, Murr and Johnson said. Sagiraju, a former tech executive, was convicted in an unrelated case in 2017 on felony securities fraud and grand theft charges.
Other documents released by the House include bank statements from Cupertino Builders that show the majority of its cash inflow came from companies associated with Paul, including World Class Holdings and Nowspace LLC. No payments appeared to come from clients other than Paxton during the three years’ worth of records released in response to the House subpoena.
The prosecution only had so much time to present its case, per the rules. That looks more than a little unfair in retrospect, but it’s too late to complain about it now. I doubt this would have swayed anyone anyway, but maybe it’ll push two or three more voters from the “undecided” camp to the “okay, Paxton really was guilty” camp. Take it where you can get it, I guess.