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More on the Paxton bribery investigation

It’s good to have rich friends.

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Attorney General Ken Paxton says the man who shelled out the most money to help him combat securities fraud charges is a “family friend,” but a review of campaign finance records show his main financier is also a major Republican donor for candidates up and down the ticket.

In a little more than a decade, Preferred Imaging CEO James Webb has given nearly $1 million to Republican candidates, including a $100,000 gift to Paxton to help fund his legal defense fund. The year after he gave his gift, the attorney general’s office agreed to a $3.5 million settlement after investigating his company for Medicare fraud.

Now Webb and his gift are at the center of the latest investigation into Paxton’s personal dealings, sparking a probe by the Kaufman County district attorney, confirmed an investigator at the agency.

Mike Holley, who is handling the case, said the DA will announce in the coming weeks whether the office will bring charges that Paxton violated the state’s bribery and corrupt influence laws by taking money from someone whose company was under investigation.


Webb, of Frisco, is a former law client of Paxton’s, according to Welch. Paxton participated at Webb’s wedding, he added, but declined to provide further details or pictures.

Webb has been a regular campaign contributor of Paxton’s for years. He gave him his first political donation in 2013 when the Republican from McKinney was running for attorney general, according to campaign finance records. He has contributed heavily to other Republican candidates’ political campaigns since then.

In total, he has given $896,800 to Republican candidates’ political coffers since 2006, according to a review of campaign finance records. Webb ponied up the most – $496,000 – for the 2014 election when voters swept Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Paxton into office.

The wealthy CEO has helped fuel all their campaigns, but gave the most to Paxton. Webb contributed $300,000 when Paxton was running for attorney general although he also give tens of thousands of dollars to Dallas area state representatives and hopefuls that election cycle.


The investigation is focused on whether Paxton violated the state’s bribery and corrupt influence penal code, said Holley, an investigator in the Kaufman County district attorney’s office handling the case. However, the investigation could turn up wrongdoing by other actors, he said.

Kaufman County District Attorney Erleigh Norville Wiley is expected to announce this fall whether the investigation has warranted new charges, she said.

See here for the background. Again, I don’t really expect anything to come out of the Kaufman County investigation, but if something does, that would be amazing. For one thing, it might be difficult to fit this story into the “Paxton haters are out to get me!” narrative he’s been spinning, but I’m sure his attorneys are up to the task. Of course, those attorneys will still have to be paid, and he’ll have one fewer sugar daddies to tap for that. Life is hard, you know? But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Keep some popcorn handy as we wait to see how this plays out.

Paxton being investigated for bribery

Sounds sexy, but don’t get too excited just yet.

Best mugshot ever

Attorney General Ken Paxton is being investigated under bribery and corrupt-influence laws for accepting a six-figure gift from a CEO whose company was under investigation by the state for fraud, the district attorney leading the probe confirmed Thursday.

In July 2016, Austin-based medical device company Preferred Imaging LLC agreed to pay a $3.5 million settlement after a multiyear Medicaid and Medicare fraud investigation. The year before, Preferred Imaging CEO James Webb had given $100,000 to help Paxton fight criminal fraud charges the attorney general has been battling since July 2015.

On Thursday, Kaufman County District Attorney Erleigh Wiley confirmed to The Dallas Morning News that she has been investigating whether Paxton broke state laws that put limits on gifts public servants can receive from people “subject to [their] jurisdiction.”

“There is an active investigation looking into that matter,” Wiley told The News. “We are carefully and thoroughly going through every piece of evidence.”

The complaint that led to the investigation was originally made to the Texas Rangers by the attorney of the same whistleblower that launched the probe into Preferred Imaging. Instead of appointing a special prosecutor to investigate, Wiley took it over at the behest of the regional administrative judge.

Wiley, a Republican, added she was close to deciding whether to send the case to a grand jury and said she’s received “great cooperation” from both the Texas Rangers and Paxton’s legal team.


To help pay for his lawyers, Paxton set up a legal defense fund in 2015. In its first year, he raised $330,000 from friends, family and business associates.

He listed the amounts under the “gifts” section of his annual financial disclosures, and last year, added this note to the end of the form: “All gifts for legal defense were conferred and accepted on account of a personal, professional, or business relationship independent of General Paxton’s official status.”

Webb’s 2015 donation was the largest single gift to Paxton’s legal defense fund. He did not contribute last year.

Texas’ bribery laws prohibit elected officials from taking “any benefit from a person the public servant knows to be subject to regulation, inspection, or investigation by the public servant or his agency.” Excepted are gifts “conferred on account of kinship or a personal, professional, or business relationship independent of the official status of the recipient.”

The Texas Ethics Commission has not signed off on elected officials receiving donations that aren’t campaign-related from out-of-state friends and business associates. In 2016, it punted a request to sign off on such an arrangement made by an anonymous official in Paxton’s agency.

It’s a long story and kid of hard to summarize, so go read it and see what you think. I think this is unlikely to turn into an indictment, but perhaps there’s more to it than it appears. If it does, I’m sure Paxton and his squadron of defense attorneys will find a way to claim it’s another partisan witch hunt, despite Kaufman County being more Republican than Collin. We’ll see how it goes. The Trib and the Chron have more.

Dukes fails to get charges tossed

Too bad for her.

Rep. Dawnna Dukes

A Travis County state district judge denied a motion by state Rep. Dawnna Dukes to dismiss four felony counts against her for tampering with public records.

Dukes’ attorneys on March 8 asked Judge Brad Urrutia to dismiss four of her 13 indicted felony charges, arguing that an agreement she signed in September 2016 to waive statute of limitations on those counts was invalid for technical reasons.

Urrutia made a brief written ruling: “Having considered the evidence presented, the argument of counsel, and the applicable law, defendant’s motion is denied.”

His decision was not unexpected after Urrutia expressed skepticism at the hearing, telling Dukes’ attorneys “Your client certainly derived a benefit, a great benefit, from signing a waiver. You’re asking me to create new law.”

Dukes, an Austin Democrat, cannot appeal the ruling.

See here and here for the background. I don’t have anything to add here, I’m just keeping track of the story and waiting till the filing period to see who’ll challenge Dukes next March, assuming she hasn’t reconsidered her decision to un-resign by then. The Trib has more.

Paxton case gets moved out of Collin County

Well, well, well.

Best mugshot ever

Attorney General Ken Paxton’s upcoming trials will be moved out of Collin County, the judge presiding over his criminal fraud case decided Thursday.

The ruling is a major victory for the prosecutors, who have for months argued that Paxton’s friends and political allies have sought to malign them in the court of public opinion here, where the attorney general has lived and worked for decades.

Judge George Gallagher ruled the trials should be moved out of Paxton’s backyard but did not set a location for where they would take place. The trials, which were to kick off May 1, will be delayed until a new venue is set.

Both the prosecutors and Paxton’s attorneys denied to comment on the ruling. Gallagher imposed a strict gag order on the parties Wednesday, saying there would be “no more statements to the press.”

In his ruling, Gallagher did not elaborate on why he sided with the prosecution. He also denied Paxton’s request to have his indictments thrown out.

See here for the background on the venue change. Judge Gallagher also denied the special prosecutors’ motion to delay the trail until the lawsuit over their pay is resolved. The hearing that led to all these rulings happened on Wednesday, and this story has some details about how that went.

During Wednesday’s hearing, Paxton’s attorneys rejected claims of a concerted effort in Collin County — where Paxton has lived and worked for years — to malign the prosecutors and skew public opinion in Paxton’s favor. They also released a poll, done by longtime Republican pollster Glen Bolger, that they said showed Paxton had no “home team advantage.”

Bolger’s poll showed that of the 400 people surveyed, a majority were aware that Paxton had been indicted, but few said they had enough facts to decide whether he was guilty or innocent. Of those who knew about the indictments, 14 percent thought he was guilty and 9 percent innocent, and more people now believed he is guilty than they did when he was first charged.

“If there’s been a campaign, it’s been pretty darn ineffective,” Bolger, who said he was paid $12,000 to take the poll, told the court. “People’s attitudes are not being significantly impacted by what has happened so far.”

Also on Wednesday, prosecutors submitted several new pieces of evidence that they said showed the trials should be moved, including a new lawsuit aimed at blocking their pay — which has been on hold since earlier this year — and an invitation to a fundraiser for Paxton co-hosted by four Collin County commissioners and a handful of state lawmakers.

The event took place at the McKinney home of Keresa and JR Richardson in December 2013, a year and a half before Paxton was indicted. At the time, Paxton was a state senator running for the Republican nomination for attorney general.

As the Wednesday hearing was wrapping up, Gallagher questioned the ethical implications of the fundraiser, saying he was concerned about lawsuits filed “by folks that have a great deal of control in this county.”

“We may have a problem here,” said Gallagher. “We may have an ethical problem.”

Collin County Judge Keith Self, one of the fundraiser’s honorary co-hosts, told The News on Thursday that the event was “not germane” to Paxton’s criminal case because it took place well before his 2015 indictment.

“This was 18 months prior to the indictment being released, and Ken Paxton at the time was a sitting state senator,” Self said, adding it would “have been strange” if they hadn’t supported his bid for attorney general.

So the bottom line is, there will be a trial – the latest motion to have the charges thrown out had to do with some allegations by the defense regarding the grand jury; that part of the hearing was done in chambers, so as to preserve the secrecy of the grand jury process – it will not begin on May 1, and it will be someplace else. When we know where it will be, we ought to know when it will be as well. Stay tuned. A statement from the Lone Star Project is here, and WFAA and the Trib have more.

Steve Stockman gets busted

Well, lookie here.

Steve Stockman

Former U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas, has been charged with violating federal election law.

Stockman conspired with former congressional employees to funnel money intended for a charity to his campaign, according to a sworn statement from an FBI agent unsealed Thursday. He is also accused of making false statements to the Federal Election Commission.

The allegations center on a $350,000 donation Stockman solicited from an unnamed businessman shortly after taking office in 2013, according to the statement. The money was supposed to go to a Las Vegas-based nonprofit called Life Without Limits, but Stockman instead “secretly diverted the funds to pay for a variety of personal expenses and to fund illegal contributions to Stockman’s campaigns for public office,” the statement said.

See here for my extensive Stockman archives. Here’s a longer story from the Chron:

Stockman said after the hearing that he had been targeted for speaking out against the Internal Revenue Service, and cited the right-wing conspiracy theory that contends bureaucrats are secretly running the U.S. government.

“This is part of a deep state that’s continuing to progress,” he said.


In court documents filed with the criminal complaint, the FBI agent said that shortly after Stockman took office for the second time in January 2013, he solicited a $350,000 donation from an unidentified “wealthy businessman” from Chicago on behalf of a Las Vegas-based nonprofit, Life Without Limits, which had been set up to help people through traumatic events.

The donation ostensibly was for renovation of a so-called Freedom House to serve as a meeting and training facility in Washington, D.C. The businessman’s charitable organization issued a check the same day.

Instead of going to the house project, however, the check was deposited six few days later in a Webster bank account set up by Stockman doing business as Life Without Limits – an account that had a balance of only $33.48 at the time, according to the agent.

“Beginning shortly after the $350,000 charitable donation was deposited into his Life Without Limits account, rather than spending the money on the ‘Freedom House,’ Stockman secretly diverted the funds to pay for a variety of personal expenses and to fund illegal contributions to Stockman’s campaigns for public office,” the agent stated.

Records show he made no “significant” contributions toward the renovations and that the Freedom House never opened.

According to the agent, some of the funds were funneled directly into the campaign through “conduit contributors,” who received cash from the Life Without Limits account and then made contributions to Stockman’s campaign.

Outside of court on Friday, Stockman said the amount in dispute is $15,000 – not the $350,000 described in court. He did not explain the higher dollar amount.

He said he has been investigated by at least three grand juries over the past three years after he tried to have Lois Lerner of the IRS arrested for contempt of congress in July 2014.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal from a nonprofit group that wanted to sue Lerner and other individual IRS officials for allegedly harassing tea party groups that applied for tax-exempt status with burdensome scrutiny in 2014.

As trouble follows Steve Stockman like flies follow a garbage truck, Stockman was investigated for ethical issues in 2014, during his one-term return to Congress after winning a multi-candidate primary for the new CD36. By the end of his term, he and three of his staffers had been subpoenaed by a federal grand jury, which is what I presume led to this. There were also investigations by the House Ethics Committee, the Office of Congressional Ethics, and the Federal Elections Commission, which is an impressive amount of activity for one otherwise inconsequential single-term Congressperson. I’ll say again, he remains one of the most brilliant and underrated political performance artists of our time. We may never see his like again, though we may see his ass in jail by the time this is all said and done. Click2Houston, ThinkProgress, the Press, and Juanita have more.

Dukes indicted


Rep. Dawnna Dukes

A grand jury has indicted state Rep. Dawnna Dukes, D-Austin, on abuse-of-office charges, the Travis County District Attorney’s office said Wednesday. She could face up to 28 years in jail and fines of up to $138,000.

The first indictment charges 13 counts of tampering with a governmental record, a felony punishable by up to two years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000. These charges are based on allegations that Dukes made false entries on travel vouchers to obtain money for expenses she was not entitled to, Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore said in a news release.

Two separate indictments were also handed down for abuse of official capacity by a public servant, a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $4,000. These “relate to allegations that Rep. Dukes misused public funds for her personal gain, and that she converted campaign funds to personal use.”

In a Facebook post Wednesday, Dukes said she is “disappointed” with the grand jury’s decision and will “be entering a plea of not guilty.”

On Wednesday afternoon, she went to the Blackwell-Thurman Criminal Justice Center to get fingerprinted and have her mug shot taken. In brief remarks outside the county courthouse Wednesday afternoon, Dukes, flanked by her lawyers, she said she is “very relieved … to begin the process of getting out the other side of the story that I have not been able to speak about since February.”

“I will focus my time and my energy on the people of District 46 and their issues and their concerns,” Dukes told reporters. “I do not intend at all to allow anyone to get me distracted.”

See here and here for the background. I have not been calling for indicted AG Ken Paxton to resign from his office, partly because as crooked as I think he is, he hasn’t been convicted of anything yet, and partly for the crass political reason that I’d rather have us Dems run against a possible convicted felon than against a clean replacement. I have no crass political reason for wanting Dawnna Dukes to stay in office, and as we know she had originally said she was going to resign for various personal reasons then changed her mind at the last minute. As such, while I remain steadfast in the belief that one is innocent until proven guilty, I’d really like to see Dawnna Dukes resign. She is highly unlikely to be an effective advocate for her constituents this session, and they deserve better. But that’s ultimately their call as much as hers – if the people who have been electing her want her to leave, she should listen to them. I hope they do, and I hope she does.

Dawnna Dukes case to go before grand jury


Rep. Dawnna Dukes

Travis County prosecutors and Texas Rangers will present evidence to a grand jury that state Rep. Dawnna Dukes abused the power of her office, Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore told the American-Statesman.

Among possible charges: abuse of official capacity and tampering with public records, Moore said.

Dukes was sworn into office for a 12th term Tuesday after reneging on a plan to step down before the Legislature convened.

Moore said that the grand jury proceedings will begin next Tuesday.


The case against Dukes began when members of legislative staff in early 2016 questioned her requiring them to do personal errands for her and work full-time on a nonprofit event. In one instance, Dukes gave a state employee a raise to cover gas money for driving her daughter to and from school.

See here for the background. KXAN was first with the story, and adds some more detail about the resignation that wasn’t.

When asked why she decided to retract her resignation, Dukes told KXAN’s Political Reporter Phil Prazan that she made her decision because her experience and qualifications make her the best person for the job. She said she had to listen to her constituents.

“I listened to the constituents who requested over and over and over again, since my announcement, that I would reconsider that I would come back,” says Dukes, who has served HD 46 since 1995. Dukes says she worked with her doctors to make sure she was healthy enough to make sure she would not be absent from the 2017 session.


There are currently five people who are vying for House District 46 and all appear to still be moving forward with their campaigns. Former Austin Mayor Pro-Tem Sheryl Cole held a news conference Tuesday afternoon to say that she’s still in the race, whether it will be in a special election or the Democratic primary for 2018.

Chito Vela also sent out an advisory for his official campaign kickoff, which is scheduled for Thursday. In his message, he says, “East Austin needs a progressive voice that will fight for the interests of working class voters.”

Gabriel Nila, the only GOP candidate going for the seat, knew he had an uphill battle in a district that typically votes at least 80 percent Democrat.

“Our concern, mine and several other people, is that she will do the exact same thing that she did in 2015—make a couple of appearances here and there, but not take care of the issues that need taking care of,” said Nila.

That sound you hear is me banging my head on my desk. The Trib has more.

Collin County Commissioners Court are a bunch of jerks


Best mugshot ever

Best mugshot ever

In an attempt to lay the legal groundwork to quit funding Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s prosecution, Collin County is refusing to pay a longtime local attorney for his work defending indigent clients.

On Monday, the Commissioners Court voted 3-2 to block payment to J. Matthew Goeller, a McKinney defense attorney who has provided legal services to the county for more than 20 years. The county owes him $4,831.25 for defending a poor client who was accused of sexually abusing a minor.

The commissioners aren’t refusing to pay Goeller because he didn’t do his job. They’re doing so because they hope to set the stage to refuse future payments to the three lawyers prosecuting Paxton’s felony fraud case.

The decision means Collin County taxpayers could spend tens of thousands of dollars to fight paying a man who did nothing wrong, and whose job is unrelated to the attorney general or his legal troubles, in the hopes of cutting off funding for Paxton’s prosecution.

County Judge Keith Self, who voted to block Goeller’s pay, said this is the only way to respond to taxpayers who have called on officials to appeal the cost of the Paxton prosecution, which tops six figures.

“This looks like it’s going to be one of those ironic things that we may pay more per hour for an appellate lawyer than we did for the special prosecutors,” Self told The Dallas Morning News after Monday’s vote. “Our citizens are demanding that we come to grips with [this].”

See here for the background on this. Later in the story we learn that the attorney who is being stiffed was recently in a car crash that had an effect on his memory, and he is trying to rebuild his practice. I don’t know hw the three commissioners that voted to stiff him can sleep at night, but the real prize here is Paxton himself, on whose behalf this atrocity is being committed. Seems to me that the decent Christian thing to do would be for him to ask them to give up this fight, and he’ll work with them to craft a bill that would change how special prosecutors are assigned and paid so that counties aren’t faced with this going forward. But no, it’s all about Ken Paxton, and who cares who gets hurt along the way? What a despicable bunch.

UPDATE: Apparently, public pressure got to the Court, and they have reversed their decision to stiff Goeller. They’ll try to find another case to pursue their battle against the special prosecutors.

Off to trial for Paxton

No more appeals, so a trial is in the works.

Best mugshot ever

Best mugshot ever

Lawyers for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton are no longer asking to have a state securities fraud case against him dismissed, moving him closer to a trial on the criminal charges.

Paxton’s legal team confirmed Tuesday that it was getting ready for a trial, five days after a deadline passed for it to try one more time to persuade the state’s highest criminal court to look at the case. They apparently passed on that opportunity.

“We are preparing for trial in the state matter and have confidence in the strength of our case,” Paxton lawyer Philip Hilder said in a statement.


In the state case, Paxton’s lawyers had until Thursday to appeal the Court of Criminal Appeals’ decision last month not to examine the charges. The deadline came and went without Paxton’s team taking action, despite initially saying it planned to.

The Court of Criminal Appeals had already declined to hear Paxton’s appeal of the lower court rulings that allowed his indictments to stand. He had the opportunity to ask the CCA to reconsider their ruling, but his defense team apparently decided that wasn’t worth the effort. So here we are. I seem to recall a past news blurb that suggested his trial would be in the spring. That might be a bit of a distraction for the legislative session, in which case perhaps late spring/early summer will be a more likely time for this. Whenever it happens, it will be the biggest story in the state. Trail Blazers has more.

State Bar dismisses other complaint against Paxton

No matter what else happens, our ethically challenged Attorney General can say he beat at least one rap against him.

Best mugshot ever

Best mugshot ever

Attorney General Ken Paxton telling county clerks they do not have to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples is not a sign of “professional misconduct,” according to the State Bar of Texas.

The organization last week dismissed a complaint filed against the embattled top prosecutor by more than 200 Texas attorneys, who argued that he “violated his own official oath of office” by issuing a written opinion stating that clerks and public officials could ignore the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing same-sex marriage if it conflicts with their religious beliefs.

In an Aug. 3 notice obtained by The Texas Tribune, the State Bar said, “The Chief Disciplinary Counsel has determined that there is no just cause to believe that [Paxton] has committed professional misconduct.”


Steve Fischer, a former director of the State Bar of Texas and one of the attorneys who filed the complaint, said that while he didn’t get the result he wanted, there is “no further interest to continue the grievance.”

“We sort of made our point that he can’t tell clerks to disobey a Supreme Court’s ruling,” he said. “It’s the law of the land. He’s entitled to his own personal opinion, but he should draw a line.”

See here for the background. This may not have risen to the level of misconduct, but it was hardly exemplary conduct either, especially from the Attorney General. I don’t think a mild slap on the wrist of some kind would have been out of place, but whatever. Everyone who wants to get married in Texas can do so, and the matter hardly raises any eyebrow any more. Whatever happened with this complaint, Paxton lost the real fight, with barely a whimper. I’ll take that.

Meanwhile, in other Paxton-trouble news, the special prosecutors have filed their response to his petition to the Court of Criminal Appeals to have the felony charges against him dismissed.

Defense lawyers raised issues that cannot be appealed before trial or were correctly decided when the Dallas-based 5th Court of Appeals upheld criminal charges accusing Paxton of securities fraud and failing to register with state securities regulators, prosecutors told the Court of Criminal Appeals.

“The Court of Criminal Appeals grants less than 4 percent of all petitions for discretionary review filed by criminal defendants. Our reply makes it clear that Mr. Paxton’s petition is not one of them,” prosecutor Brian Wice said.

The prosecutors also argued that Paxton, who filed his appeal Aug. 1, waited too long to challenge the two felony fraud charges, requiring that portion of his appeal to be automatically dismissed.

You can see the state’s reply here. They rebutted each of the defense’s specific claims in addition to asserting that the defense filing was too late, but the legalese was too thick for me to make it all the way through without my eyes glazing over. Suffice it to say, the prosecution begged to differ.

And finally, Paxton is asking the SEC for more time in his fraud case on their docket.

Contemplating an aggressive round of depositions, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has asked for an additional 3½ months to question potential witnesses about allegations that Paxton defrauded investors in private business deals five years ago.

The additional time, if granted by U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant III, would delay until at least September 2017 a civil trial on fraud allegations made by federal regulators.

In a recent court filing, Paxton’s lawyers told the judge they will need more time to question as many as 46 potential witnesses, including state Rep. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, and his wife, Kay.


Another reason to grant a delay, lawyers told Mazzant, is that Paxton could face a criminal trial as early as spring 2017 on state felony fraud charges related to his actions on behalf of Servergy.

“Mr. Paxton respectfully submits that, as a matter of fairness, the trial of his criminal matter should occur prior to the trial of this matter,” his lawyers said.

Paxton’s lawyers also informed Mazzant that they are not interested in reaching an out-of-court settlement with the SEC. Neither side has requested or made a settlement offer, they added.

SEC lawyers told Mazzant they expect to finish their depositions — which would include questioning Paxton and his wife, Angela — by Feb. 6. Paxton’s lawyers pressed for a May 26 deadline on depositions.

See here and here for the background. Paxton has also filed a motion to dismiss the SEC charges against him, which still awaits the judge’s ruling. You have to admit, defending himself from a myriad of charges relating to his bad behavior is a full-time job, so Paxton has a compelling case for delay here. We’ll see if the judge grants it.

Paxton appeals to CCA

Last chance to avoid a trial or a plea deal.

Best mugshot ever

Best mugshot ever

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is appealing the securities fraud charges against him to the state’s highest criminal court, in one last bid to dismiss the case before it potentially goes to trial.

Paxton’s attorneys filed the appeal Tuesday with the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, asking the Austin-based court to do away with the three felony indictments facing the attorney general. The case, now more than a year old, centers on allegations that Paxton misled investors in private business dealings from before his time as attorney general.

“Ken Paxton has been charged with a crime that simply doesn’t exist, using a grand jury that was improperly impaneled,” Paxton lawyer Bill Mateja said in a statement. “This petition was filed with the Court of Criminal Appeals to not only correct the lower court’s mistake but to end this improper prosecution.”

The special prosecutors handling Paxton’s case countered that a lower appeals court has already ruled that many of the issues Paxton is bringing up cannot be addressed before trial. Earlier this year, the Dallas-based Fifth Court of Appeals rejected an attempt by Paxton to get rid of the charges ahead of time.

“By simply asking for a ‘do-over,’ Mr. Paxton’s petition falls far short of the exacting standard he must meet before the State’s highest criminal court will review a court of appeals’ decision,” read a statement from the prosecutors, Kent Schaffer and Brian Wice.

See here and here for the latest updates. This was always going to go to the CCA, it was just a matter of how long it took to get there. And for all their supposed pro-prosecution tendencies, the CCA sure does seem to have a soft spot for Republican defendants, so anything can happen here. My guess is that if the CCA takes up the appeal – they could decline to do that, but I can’t imagine they will – the single most likely outcome is that they allow the indictments to stand, on the grounds that this isn’t the time for them to get involved. The more interesting question will be whether they tip their hand about how the future appeal of the trial verdict may go. That’s getting way ahead of ourselves, so let’s sit back for now and see if they take up the case or not. The DMN has more.

Harris County DA drops charges against video fraudsters

Disappointing, to say the least.

Right there with them

Right there with them

Criminal charges against the anti-abortion activists behind undercover recordings of a Houston Planned Parenthood facility were dismissed Tuesday.

David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt, the videographers who infiltrated Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, had been charged with tampering with a governmental record, a second-degree felony charge that carries up to 20 years in prison. A court clerk confirmed that the Harris County district attorney’s office filed the motion to dismiss the case against Daleiden and Merritt.

Harris County DA Devon Anderson said in a statement that Texas limits what can be investigated after a grand jury term gets extended, which happened in this case.

“In light of this and after careful research and review, this office dismissed the indictments,” Anderson said.

The misdemeanor charge against Daleiden was dismissed by the judge in June. The defense had filed a motion back in April to dismiss the felony charges on the grounds that the grand jury had not been properly empaneled, and the fraudsters rejected a plea deal later in April. If you’re wondering why now, when there hadn’t yet been a hearing on the defense motions, the DA’s office decided to throw in the towel, you’re not alone.

The decision came as a surprise because the district attorney’s office had argued at length in a 30-page motion filed in May that the issue about the grand jury’s term was “meritless.”

Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast’s attorney Josh Schaffer said Tuesday’s decision was based on a political calculation by a Republican incumbent who has drawn criticism for pursuing the case. It also came just days after sharp criticism of the DA’s office in an unrelated case over the jailing of a mentally ill rape victim to ensure she would testify.

“I think it smacks of a politically expedient decision made from the highest levels of the office,” Schaffer said. “It was an easy out for a district attorney who had already received a lot of heat from her party over this case and had received a lot of heat this week for the handling of another case, one involving a rape victim.”

If prosecutors were concerned about a technical error over the grand jury extension, he said, they could have remedied it months ago by taking it to another grand jury. The district attorney’s office could still file charges, he noted.

“I do not think what happened in this case was based on law or the facts,” he said. “It was based on politics.”


The lawyers had scheduled a hearing before state District Judge Brock Thomas in which they were expected to argue the grand jurors were improperly empaneled longer than their standard three-month term, rendering any indictments null and void.

Instead of arguing the point, prosecutors agreed in a surprise move that the defense raised a “colorable claim” and dismissed all of the charges.


Political and legal observers said the dismissal is understandable given the amount of resources it would have taken to prosecute versus the likely outcome.

“If I were writing the prosecutorial memo, it seems like this case would be a whole lot of work that would, at best, end up with a slap on the wrist,” said Geoffrey Corn, a professor at the newly named Houston College of Law. “There are bigger fish to fry in Houston.”

Corn said Anderson should not be criticized for using her discretion to dismiss a case that would expend county resources for a minor conviction.

“These were a couple of zealots who were overreaching and gaming the system,” he said. “DA’s have to make hard decisions about where to allocate resources. This seems to make sense to me.”

I Am Not A Lawyer, so I cannot evaluate the merits of the defense’s arguments or the reasons why the prosecution decided to buy into them. What Professor Corn says makes some sense, but one might ask why they didn’t make that calculation before taking this to a grand jury in the first place. It’s not like they couldn’t have seen this cost/benefit calculation coming from that vantage point. I can’t say what motivated Devon Anderson to change course now, but the timing of it sure is funny.

One more thing:

“The decision to drop the prosecution on a technicality does not negate the fact that the only people who engaged in wrongdoing are the extremists behind this fraud,” said Melaney Linton, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast.

Yep. This is the very definition of “getting off on a technicality”. Let us not lose sight of that. The Press and the Current have more.

Montgomery County Judge suspended for road bond allegations

This just keeps getting better.

A state commission has suspended Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal without pay after a grand jury charged him with violating Texas’ open meetings law while developing a bond package for new and improved roads.

The move by the State Commission on Judicial Review came four days after the indictments of Doyal, County Commissioners Jim Clark and Charlie Riley and a political adviser for allegedly engaging in behind-the-scenes negotiations before putting a $280 million road bond measure on last November’s ballot. Voters passed the bond package.

The commission’s order strips Doyal of the ability to perform official duties while the criminal case is pending. He has requested a hearing within 30 days to ask the commission to lift the suspension.

“I understand the open meetings laws,” Doyal said at a news conference at his attorney’s office. “I did not violate the open meetings laws, nor did I conspire to violate the open meetings laws.”

See here and here for the background. I have no opinion the merits of this, or on the likelihood of any particular outcome. I’m just enjoying the show.

Montgomery County officials indicted over road bond shenanigans

I know I’m a bad person, but this continues to amuse me greatly.

A grand jury has indicted Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal and two commissioners, charging them with violating Texas’ open meetings law last year while developing a bond package for new and improved roads.

Traffic-weary voters in the rapidly growing county approved the $280 million financing proposal, but the indictments left Doyal and Commissioners Jim Clark and Charlie Riley to face criminal charges for their actions in getting it on the ballot.

Grand jurors also charged Marc Davenport, an adviser who helped to broker a deal on the bond proposal. He is married to the county’s treasurer, Stephanne Davenport.

Chris Downey, the special prosecutor who presented the case to the grand jury over six months, said that the misdemeanor charges are punishable by a fine up to $500, as many as six months in jail or both.

Downey said that it’s too early to know whether the case will go to trial.

“Like any criminal matter, whether or not a matter goes to trial is going to be a function of further discovery and negotiation,” he said.

See here for the background. The charges are fairly small potatoes, and I’ll be very surprised if they result in any kind of guilty verdict. I just find it all hilarious. The next time anyone tries to tell you that the suburbs are so much better at running things than the big cities, point to this and remind them that we can generally get bond measures on the ballot without anyone getting indicted.

Misdemeanor charge dropped against video fraudster Daleiden

Just the misdemeanor charge, not the felony.

Right there with them

Right there with them

A Harris County judge has dropped one of the criminal charges against an anti-abortion activist who was indicted after making undercover recordings of a Houston Planned Parenthood facility.

David Daleiden, one of the videographers who infiltrated Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, had been charged with the very crime he tried to secretly catch Planned Parenthood committing — a misdemeanor charge for offering to sell or buy fetal tissue. But that charge was dismissed on Monday, according to the Harris County District Clerk website.


Daleiden’s team in April asked the judge to dismiss his indictments, alleging they were a result of improper proceedings by prosecutors and that the grand jury — originally asked to investigate Planned Parenthood, not the videographers — exceeded its authority.

In a statement Tuesday, Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson said the judge’s ruling was not based on Daleiden’s motion to quash the indictments.

“The basis for the judge’s ruling was not raised by the defense at any time,” Anderson said. “We do not intend to appeal the judge’s decision. Our office remains focused on the felony charge pending in the 338th District Court.”

See here and here for some background. The Press explains why the misdemeanor indictment for offering to sell or buy fetal tissue was tossed:

Judge Bull reasoned that the indictment was defective because prosecutors did not list an “exception” to the criminal charge—essentially, prosecutors didn’t list a few scenarios in which the defendants’ actions would in fact be legal. One of those exceptions that prosecutors failed to list? It just so happens to be the very defense that Planned Parenthood mounted against the radical right’s attacks: “reimbursement of expenses…incurred by the donor of a human organ in connection with the donation of the organ.”

Yes, because prosecutors didn’t write down that exception in the formal indictment, Judge Bull says the case is void.

I’m not particularly concerned about this. It’s the felony charges that matter, and those are still in place for both Daleiden and Merritt, who apparently has not yet made a decision about whether or not to accept the offer of probation from the DA. As long as Daleiden in particular goes down in a blaze of self-righteous baloney at the end of all this, I’m good. The Chron, the Observer, and Trail Blazers have more.

5th Court of Appeals refuses to toss Paxton indictments

Sorry, Kenny.

Best mugshot ever

Best mugshot ever

A Dallas appeals court on Wednesday upheld Attorney General Ken Paxton’s three felony fraud indictments, a decision he is likely to appeal to the highest criminal court in the state.

“We are gratified but not surprised that just three weeks after oral argument, the en banc court of appeals unanimously concluded that Mr. Paxton’s claims were clearly without merit,” the special prosecutors handling the case said. “We are confident that the Court of Criminal Appeals will reject Mr. Paxton’s next round of appeals as surely and as swiftly as the court of appeals did today.”

In its decision, the 5th Court of Appeals said three of the arguments Paxton used to challenge his indictments could not be considered at this point in the legal process. The fourth argument, it said, was invalid.

Paxton’s first three arguments dealt with whether the judge who empaneled the grand jury that indicted him had done so improperly. The fourth argued that one of the state laws Paxton is accused of violating is unconstitutional and trumped by similar federal law.

“Having concluded that appellant’s first, second and third issues are not cognizable on pretrial habeas and that appellant’s fourth issue lacks merit, we affirm the trial court’s orders denying the relief sought by appellant,” Chief Justice Carolyn Wright wrote in the court’s opinion.

Paxton’s attorneys have not decided whether to appeal the Dallas court’s decision, but they issued a statement Wednesday making clear they disagreed with the ruling.

“The Court did not hold that Mr. Paxton’s main claims were without merit, rather were premature at this stage of the proceedings,” attorney Philip Hilder said. “Respectfully, we disagree that these fundamental flaws cannot be challenged pretrial and will evaluate in coming days whether to raise these issues with the Court of Criminal Appeals.”

See here and here for some background. The full 5th Court of Appeals heard the case, so there’s no intermediate step to take before going to the Court of Criminal Appeals. Arguments before the 5th were heard less than three weeks ago, so to say the least this was a quick decision on their part. The peg that Team Paxton will hang its hat on is that for three of their four arguments, the 5th Court made no ruling on the merits, just that now was not the time to make those arguments. If I had to guess, I’d say the CCA will rule the same way, but you never know with those guys. The bottom line is that we’re another step closer to a trial. The Trib has more.

Paxton’s day in appellate court

The grand jury was out to get Ken Paxton, apparently.

Best mugshot ever

Best mugshot ever

Lawyers for Attorney General Ken Paxton on Thursday tried to cast doubt on the makeup of the grand jury that indicted him. They’re hoping to overturn a lower court’s decision not to dismiss the securities fraud charges against him.

Much of the discussion at the Dallas-based 5th Court of Appeals centered on the composition of the Collin County grand jury that indicted Paxton on state charges nearly a year ago, setting up a legal drama that led to federal charges earlier this year. Paxton has pleaded not guilty to the state charges, which allege he misled investors in a company in which he had personal dealings before he became the state’s top law enforcement official.

Paxton’s lawyers argued Thursday morning that the the appeals court should reverse last year’s decision by Collin County District Judge George Gallagher not to end the case against Paxton before trial. Paxton lawyer Bill Mateja told the 5th Court of Appeals that the grand jury that indicted Paxton was not sufficiently random, the result of a judge who allegedly gave prospective jurors too much leeway in removing themselves from the process.

“Quite simply, the court did not follow the rules,” Mateja said, later acknowledging that if the grand jury were voided, it would affect every case it heard, not just Paxton’s. “It is better to nip this in the bud now than allow this to fester.”

Special prosecutor Brian Wice countered that there was nothing improper about how the jury was put together, saying Collin County District Judge Chris Older, who oversaw that process, “had inherent discretion” and “acted in good faith.” Even if the jury’s composition was less than random, Wice said, Paxton’s lawyers have so far failed to show how it harmed them.

See here, here, and here for the background. Seems like a lot to ask the court for a ruling that would have the effect of potentially throwing out a bunch of other indictments, but what do I know? There was another question at issue as well.

The other point of contention was whether Paxton was properly registered as an investment adviser when he encouraged some of his own legal clients to seek the services of Frederick “Fritz” Mowery, a friend who operated an investment firm in the same building as Paxton’s law office. Paxton received a commission on these referrals.

Arguing against the third-degree felony charge, Mateja said Paxton was registered with the federal authorities because so was Frederick “Fritz” Mowery, the friend who operated the investment firm that Paxton recommended.

He added the federal investment definition for investment advisor representative “trumps the state’s definition.” He also called the state definition too broad, saying it could require people who distribute leaflets for investment firms or newspapers that advertise for them to register as a representative.

Wice disagreed, saying the state law is clear and that Paxton should have been registered with the the Texas State Securities Board.

Yes, that’s Ken Paxton’s lawyer arguing that federal law trumps state law. Because Ken Paxton has that much respect for the power of the federal government. How anyone managed to keep a straight face during this is a mystery to me.

Anyway. The courtroom proceedings were staid and boring compared to the political spectacle, which involved Paxton making a video whining about how terribly, terribly persecuted he’s being for this itty bitty financial peccadilloes. I mean, what’s a little fraud among friends, and I right? The Lone Star Project takes apart Paxton’s claims. I’m hoping the 5th Circuit judges do the same; both sides say they expect an expedited ruling, but that would still be months from now. Finally, it turns out that there’s yet another former employee of the AG’s office who is collecting salary for doing nothing. It’s a long story, so read it all; there’s a bit at the end about how this particular employee had oversight of a disastrous project to upgrade and outsource the management of child support enforcement systems. Maybe I’m reading too much into things, but that all smells fishy to me in a way that the others did not. Read it and see what you think. The Chron has more.

Video fraudsters to go to trial

All righty then.

Right there with them

Right there with them

David Robert Daleiden, 27, and his colleague, Sandra Susan Merritt, 63, both of California, have rejected a plea deal that would have effectively put an end to the criminal charges against them, their lawyers confirmed Friday.

“I don’t advise my clients to accept responsibility for cases that they haven’t done anything wrong in,” said Dan Cogdell, Merritt’s attorney.

The pair were charged in January with tampering with a governmental record, a second-degree felony with a possible sentence of up to 20 years in prison. Daleiden also faces a misdemeanor charge of attempting to buy human organs.

After a brief status hearing Friday, attorneys said they will not accept offers of pretrial diversion, a low-level probation that would have allowed the charges against them to be dismissed if they did not break the law for a year. It’s commonly offered by the Harris County District Attorney’s Office to first-time offenders with minor charges such as shoplifting.

Earlier this month, attorneys for Daleiden filed motions to quash the indictments against him, arguing that the Harris County grand jury that handed down the indictments was not properly empaneled.

See here and here for the background. The defense has alleged that DA Devon Anderson is in cahoots with Planned Parenthood, the defendants are utterly convinced of their righteousness and are prepared to martyr themselves for their cause. This will be…interesting. There’s no mention of a court date, so we’ll just have to be patient.

It’s a conspiracy!

Oh, noes! Planned Parenthood is in cahoots with the Harris County DA! Run for your lives!

The anti-abortion activist accused of falsifying records to secretly videotape Planned Parenthood officials in Houston is accusing the Harris County district attorney’s office of illegally colluding with the nonprofit.

The allegations were raised in court documents filed Thursday seeking to dismiss the charge against David Robert Daleiden, of Davis, Calif.


On Thursday, his attorneys filed motions to quash the indictments, saying the Harris County grand jury that handed down the indictments was not properly empaneled.

“The DA’s office has chosen to wage a war on the pro-life movement,” said attorney Jared Woodfill. “We believe there is clear evidence of Planned Parenthood actually colluding with and pushing the District Attorney’s office to move forward with these indictments.”

At a press conference on the courthouse steps that Daleiden did not attend, Woodfill and attorney Terry Yates said the indictments are “fatally flawed.”

The motions filed to quash the felony charge is here, and for the misdemeanor charge is here. I’ve read through the first one, and with the usual reminder that I Am Not A Lawyer, it looks to me like the bulk of the issue being taken is with the grand jury being held over:

The investigation of Planned Parenthood was brought before the 232nd grand jury [in] September [of 2015].

However, at the close of the 2015 term, no action had been taken in the investigation of Planned Parenthood. A grand jury “hold over” order was drafted by the Harris County District Attorney’s office and presented to the 232rd Court for entry on December 16, 2015. (Exhibit “B”). However, in that order, the prosecutor failed to specifically state or articulate any specific individual or case that the grand jury was holding over to investigate. The order recites boilerplate language set forth in Section 19.07 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure; however, due to the lack of specificity required the order is deficient.

From there, they complain that evidence from the grand jury hearings was provided to lawyers for Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion Federation, including video evidence that was supposed to be covered by a temporary restraining order, and that Daleiden’s lawyers were never notified that he had become a target of the investigation. They cite various mainstream media accounts published after Daleiden and Merritt were indicted as evidence of this.

I’ll leave it to the attorneys in attendance to comment on the claims made by Woodfill and Yates. My layman’s impression is that hold over grand juries are fairly routine – whether they need specific instructions about who or what is being investigated is not something I know – and as for the alleged collusion, I kind of have a hard time believing the lawyers involved, including the assistant DAs, would be that stupid if this was indeed something shady. I would also note that Tamara Tabo, who unlike me is a lawyer and who also unlike me opposes abortion, believes it is clear that Daleiden did indeed break the law. Which doesn’t mean that the indictments weren’t compromised and won’t be tossed, but it is worth keeping in mind. Woodfill and Yates aren’t arguing Daleiden isn’t guilty of anything, they’re arguing the process went bad. I can’t wait to see what the judge makes of this. The Trib, which supplied the defendant’s motions, and the Press have more.

Collin County grand jury declines to add to Ken Paxton’s problems

He’s got that going for him, which is nice.

Best mugshot ever

Best mugshot ever

A Collin County grand jury looking into a 2004 land sale tied to a business group involving Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has decided to drop its investigation, a lawyer for the McKinney Republican said Wednesday.

Since November, two special prosecutors appointed by state District Judge George Gallagher of Fort Worth have been looking into criminal allegations related to a sale of land that later became the site of Collin Central Appraisal District. The sale involved a limited partnership that included Paxton, Collin County District Attorney Greg Willis and eight other partners.

Paxton lawyer Bill Mateja said in a statement that the attorney general and his legal team were confident from the beginning that the grand jury would take no action.

“We would like to thank the special prosecutors for their diligence in reviewing all aspects of this matter and for reaching out to General Paxton to obtain his cooperation in their investigation,” Mateja said.

Special prosecutors Bob Gill and Miles Brissette issued a statement Wednesday afternoon confirming the development.

“After reviewing voluminous documents, hearing the testimony of numerous witnesses and conducting an exhaustive examination of all relevant information, the grand jury concluded that no further action was warranted,” they said.

See here and here for the background. Paxton still has plenty of troubles to worry about, but if there’s one person who’s likely breathing a sigh of relief at this, it’s Collin County DA Greg Willis. Regardless, it’s one less thing for Paxton to have to pay his attorneys, and that’s something. Trail Blazers has more.

Former Trooper Encinia pleads not guilty in Sandra Bland perjury case

As expected.

Sandra Bland

A former Texas trooper pleaded not guilty to charges he lied about his actions last July while arresting Sandra Bland, whose death in Waller County’s jail three days later sparked a national outcry from civil rights activists.

Dressed in a gray suit and tie and flanked by his attorneys, former Department of Public Safety Trooper Brian T. Encinia said little Tuesday afternoon during a minutes-long arraignment hearing before State District Judge Albert M. McCaig Jr.


In an arrest affidavit, Encinia said he had ordered Bland out of the car to safely continue the investigation.

A Waller County grand jury indicted Encinia in January of misdemeanor perjury based on that statement, according to a special prosecutor in the case. If convicted, Encinia could spend up to a year in jail and have to pay a $4,000 fine.

Earlier this month, DPS Director Steve McCraw formally fired Encinia, saying he violated the department’s courtesy policy and procedures. Encinia is appealing the termination to the Texas Public Safety Commission. Separately, the trooper is named in a wide-ranging civil lawsuit filed by Bland’s family that alleges negligence and wrongful death. Attorneys representing Encinia in that case have asked – unsuccessfully – that it be delayed while his criminal trial plays out. The civil trial is set to begin next January.

Bland’s mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, and older sister, Shante Needham, both appeared at the arraignment, along with their lawyer, Cannon Lambert.

“To come all this way, I needed to do it,” said Bland’s mother after the hearing, as she embraced those who’d gathered in support of her and her family.

“I’m hopeful things go in the direction that [Encinia] eventually gets detained and he can remain there for the maximum amount of time that perjury carries,” Needham said. “At the end of the day, my sister, my mother’s daughter, is no longer here anymore. He needs to be held accountable for his actions.”

See here and here for the background. The Trib quotes Encinia’s defense attorney blaming his indictment on a “runaway” grand jury. I dunno, I thought that video of the traffic stop made it quite clear that at the very least, Encinia was unprofessional and antagonistic. We can argue if his behavior qualifies as perjury, but let’s see what happens in the courtroom first. And let’s not overlook the fact, as Grits notes, a law enforcement officer being called to account at all like this is quite unusual. A conviction, if it comes to that, would be even more so. The Press has more.

Video fraudsters offered probation

First the one, on Wednesday.

Right there with them

Right there with them

A California woman charged last week for her role in the production of undercover videos at a Houston Planned Parenthood clinic will be offered probation, a Harris County prosecutor said in court.

Sandra Susan Merritt, of San Jose, Calif., appeared in court Wednesday morning on charges of tampering with a governmental record, a second-degree felony which carried a possible sentence of up to 20 years in prison.


On Wednesday, Merritt made her bail, was processed by the Harris County Sheriff’s Office and turned herself in to state District Judge Brock Thomas. Dressed in her regular clothes, she appeared with a team of defense attorneys. She was also accompanied to and from the court by a handful of sheriff’s deputies because of the intense media scrutiny the case has generated, according to one official.

Merritt, who sat in the gallery with supporters, did not appear before the judge or speak in court. During a scheduling conference at the bench, Assistant District Attorney Sunni Mitchell said she is not considered a flight risk. The prosecutor said Merritt will be offered pre-trial diversion, a form of probation that typically does not require a guilty plea or stringent conditions. Typically reserved for low-level non-violent first offenders, like shoplifters, a suspect is diverted out of the court system. If they stay out of trouble, the charges are eventually dismissed. Merritt’s case was rescheduled until next month to work out the parameters of her probation.

Officials with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office would not discuss whether Daleiden would be offered a similar deal when he appears in court Thursday.

They did offer him a similar deal, and he rejected it.

Anti-abortion activist David Daleiden, one of the videographers indicted after infiltrating a Houston Planned Parenthood facility, on Thursday rejected prosecutors’ offer of a probation deal, according to his attorney.


County prosecutors this week offered both activists pre-trial diversion, a form of probation. But Daleiden rejected the offer and plans to fight the charges, said attorney Jared Woodfill. It’s unclear whether Merritt has accepted or rejected the deal.


Pre-trial diversion, a sort of probation, is offered to many first-time nonviolent offenders. If offenders keep a clean record for a predetermined length of time, their charges can be dismissed. Prosecutors have not drawn up a specific contract and conditions for Daleiden and Merritt.

Don’t bother. He ain’t taking it, whatever it is.

“The only thing we’re going to accept is an apology,” said Daleiden’s defense attorney Terry Yates. “We believe the indictments are factually and legally insufficient.”

Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson responded that she has offered the videographer and his associate, Sandra Susan Merritt, 62, of San Jose, Calif., an “exit from their legal predicament.”

She also accused the activists of using their criminal charges to grandstand in a case that has drawn national attention due to heated opinions on both sides of the abortion debate.

“Currently, no evidence has been presented to me that gives me legal grounds to dismiss the indictments against Mr. Daleiden and Ms. Merritt,” she said by email. “Among those familiar with criminal prosecution, my offer would be immediately accepted as ‘an offer you can’t refuse;’ unless of course, your goal is not to avoid prosecution, but rather to keep the circus going and going.”


“It’s unusual because a pre-trial diversion is a pretty sweet outcome for an alleged felony,” said Geoffrey Corn, a professor at South Texas College of Law. He said Daleiden could have several reasons for refusing the offer, including believing that the law is not justified, that a jury would never convict him or that being convicted would add significance to his anti-abortion crusade.

“This guy thinks that what he did is morally justified,” Corn said. “Every now and then you encounter a defendant who, for whatever reason, says ‘I don’t believe in the law.'”

It’s more than fine by me that Daleiden rejected this offer, because I want them to be convicted of something, and I think their “we’re journalists and we did what journalists do” defense is deeply flawed. They don’t need to have jail time – honestly, this is not the sort of crime that really calls for jail time – but there needs to be an example set, to at least make any future copycats think twice. The reason why a conviction really matters is because the real potential for punishment will come from the civil courts, and nothing will help the various lawsuits against these clowns like a guilty plea or verdict. I’m not surprised that Daleiden rejected the plea – these people are believers, and I suspect more than willing to play the martyr – and I won’t be surprised if Merritt does as well. And if/when that happens, I want to see them nailed at trial.

How the tables got turned on the video fraudsters

A must read.

Right there with them

Right there with them

Planned Parenthood’s legal strategy was in some ways similar to how corporations facing major white-collar criminal investigations often cooperate closely with prosecutors to try to influence the outcome.

From the start, Planned Parenthood and its Houston lawyer Josh Schaffer settled on a strategy of cooperating with investigators, said Rochelle Tafolla, a spokeswoman for the affiliate. It included volunteering documents and encouraging prosecutors to interview employees, as well as giving prosecutors tours of the Houston facility, according to Schaffer.

“We certainly began the process as suspects of a crime, and the tables got turned and we ended up victims of a crime,” Schaffer told Reuters in an interview.

Schaffer was retained by Planned Parenthood last summer when Texas officials demanded it face a criminal investigation after the anti-abortion activists posted videos online purporting to show the organization’s employees discussing the sale of aborted fetal tissue, which is illegal in the United States if done for a profit.


Although what happened during the grand jury’s secret deliberations may never be known, Schaffer said it did not vote on whether to indict Planned Parenthood.

That is because the grand jury’s focus shifted to a case against the anti-abortion campaigners, Schaffer said on a conference call with reporters, citing information he said he received from a prosecutor.

Planned Parenthood said that Daleiden and Merritt used fake driver’s licenses in April 2015 when they posed as executives from a fictitious company to secretly film conversations at the Houston facility. That led to the charges they used fake government documents with the intent to defraud.

One critical juncture in the case may have occurred when Planned Parenthood gave law enforcement an important tip: Merritt’s true name, according to Schaffer.

Her identity remained unknown from the time she visited Planned Parenthood with a fake California driver’s license until about December when Daleiden revealed it during a deposition as part of a separate civil lawsuit in state court in Los Angeles, Schaffer said.

As part of his strategy, Schaffer said he explicitly pushed prosecutors to charge Daleiden and Merritt.

“I made the argument regarding the charges that the grand jury returned,” Schaffer said in the interview, “but I did not have to make them very forcefully because it was self-evident to the prosecutors that they engaged in this conduct.”

Fascinating, and I expect it will just enrage the people who are already losing their minds over this, but as I said before a lie can only be sustained for so long. Sooner or later, you have to put your cards on the table. It’s not like we couldn’t have guessed that these guys were liars – there’s a long evidence trail of people like them saying and doing similar things. It’s not even the first time that DA Devon Anderson has been called upon to investigate some wild claims about an abortion provider that turned out to be complete fabrications and lurid fantasies. It’s one thing to believe these stories even though the objective evidence suggests they’re too outrageous to be true (as Daniel Davies has said, there’s no fancy Latin phrase for giving a known liar the benefit of the doubt), but it’s another thing entirely (as Fred Clark often reminds us) to want to believe them, to fervently hope that they really are true, and to keep on believing them even when any reasonable person knows they are not true.

Which brings us to the fraudsters’ defense attorneys, who have their own impossible things to believe.

“We believe this is a runaway grand jury that has acted contrary to the law,” former Harris County Republican Party Chairman Jared Woodfill told reporters Wednesday. “They’ve gone after the whistle-blowers.”

Woodfill and prominent criminal defense attorney Terry Yates announced they will represent the two activists and said their defense will turn on First Amendment protections afforded to undercover journalists and focus on the activists’ “intent” when they created fake identifications and offered to buy fetal tissue from a Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast office last year.

On Wednesday, Woodfill and Yates conceded that Daleiden, 27, and Merritt, 62, used fake California driver’s licenses to conceal their identities to gain entry to Planned Parenthood offices and corresponded with officials.

“These are techniques that investigative journalists have used for years,” Woodfill said. “If they were to criminalize this conduct, most investigative journalists would be prosecuted for doing the exact same or similar things.”

Fred Brown, an ethics expert for the Society of Professional Journalists, said reporters rarely falsify their identities and said it is “frowned upon.”

“It should be considered a last resort and it’s not really ethical,” Brown said.

Most major newspapers have rules against reporters concealing their identities or using fake names.

Law professor Eugene Volokh would take issue with what Woodfill says, too. It’s interesting to read the story and see how many times they retracted or walked back something they initially asserted. The amount of mental gymnastics they are doing must be quite tiresome.

One more thing:

Daleiden also is charged with trying to purchase human organs, namely fetal tissue, a Class A misdemeanor.

Woodfill scoffed at the charge, saying, “It’s going to be very difficult for prosecutors to say that they intended to actually purchase human body parts.”

Um, wasn’t the whole point of their exercise to prove that body parts were being sold? How could they do that if they didn’t also believe they could buy them? I know, that’s not quite the same as “intent” in a legal sense, but I think their story will be a little harder for a jury to believe if the claim is they were just trying to get Planned Parenthood to give them their price list. Murray Newman, the Wall Street Journal, the Press, Campos, and David Ortez have more.

Every investigation on Planned Parenthood has cleared them

From Think Progress:

After a months-long investigation, a Texas grand jury decided not to indict Planned Parenthood on Monday — providing more confirmation that there’s no solid evidence to support the accusations against the national women’s health organization.

This trend goes far beyond Texas. Across the country, GOP-led investigations into Planned Parenthood’s activities haven’t turned up any proof that the organization is breaking the law.

Planned Parenthood has been under fire thanks to a series of undercover videos secretly filmed byanti-abortion activists affiliated with a sting group called the Center for Medical Progress. After those videos were released, right-wing lawmakers rushed to accuse Planned Parenthood of illegally trafficking in aborted baby parts, and GOP officials launched investigations into the group at both the state and federal levels. This fall, Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards was required to testify before Congress to defend her organization’s activities.

Despite the increased scrutiny on Planned Parenthood’s fetal tissue donation program, however, Republican officials are coming up empty.

In addition to the grand jury in Texas, officials in 11 other states — Kansas, Florida, Ohio, Washington, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, and South Dakota — have also concluded their investigations into Planned Parenthood by clearing the organizationof any wrongdoing. Many of these investigations have been quite extensive and time consuming. In Missouri, for example, the state attorney general confirmed there’s no evidence of misconduct at the state’s only Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis after reviewing more than 3,500 pages of documents and conducting multiple interviews with the clinic’s employees.

Eight additional states, meanwhile, have determined they don’t have enough evidence against Planned Parenthood to justify conducting an investigation in the first place. Although politicians there pushed for a probe, officials ultimately concluded that it would be a waste of time.

See here for the background. The Harris County District Clerk has released scans of the indictments – the “tampering with a government document” indictments are here, and the “knowingly offer to buy human body parts” indictment is here; this Trib story adds some details. Basically, the two CMP clowns presented fake California drivers’ licenses to the Planned Parenthood people they interacted with, and they did this for the purpose of proving to them that they were not on PP’s internal list of known bad guys. That’s “intent to defraud and harm another”, which is what made this more serious than your average underage kid showing fake ID to get into a bar. I’m sure their defense attorneys will vigorously contest the indictments – this Trib story suggests they will claim a First Amendment justification for creating the fake IDs – and it’s certainly possible they’ll succeed, but that’s what the charges are about.

Again, the larger point is that the practices that these liars accused Planned Parenthood of engaging in – selling fetal tissue for profit – has been investigated coast to coast by nearly two dozen different state entities, and every single one of them has concluded that those claims are false. A normal person, one with a modicum of honesty and integrity, might reasonably conclude that the weight of the evidence so far more than exonerates Planned Parenthood. A dishonest person who lacks any integrity will keep trying to prove that the lies are true.

The Harris County investigation was one of several that began in the state after the center released footage of a Houston clinic executive casually discussing the methods and costs of preserving fetal tissue, which Republican state officials said was proof the organization was making a profit.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a tea party firebrand from Houston, was the first to call for the Harris County District Attorney’s Office to investigate. He also directed a state Senate committee to conduct its own probe.

On Monday, Patrick issued a statement saying the Senate probe would continue because “the horrific nature of these videos demand scrutiny and investigation.”

Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton, who also ordered their own investigations, released statements saying they would continue.

“The fact remains that the videos exposed the horrific nature of abortion and the shameful disregard for human life of the abortion industry,” Paxton said.

You guys are going to have to clap harder than that. Tinker Bell will never get better unless you really, really mean it. What I believe is that while one can win transient battles based on lies, sooner or later it falls apart and the truth comes out. When that happens, there is a price to be paid. I look forward to seeing the tab for this one. BOR, the Trib, Vox, RH Reality Check, Dan Solomon, TPM, Lisa Falkenberg, and Andrea Grimes, who has a decidedly more pessimistic take than I do, have more.

UPDATE: Another Chron story, noting that 1) a lot of damage has already been done to Planned Parenthood, and 2) the fanatical opponents aren’t going anywhere. Meanwhile, DA Devon Anderson is probably happy all this happened after the filing deadline for the primaries, and Dahlia Lithwick weighs in.

Grand jury indicts Planned Parenthood video fraudsters


Right there with them

Right there with them

A Harris County grand jury investigating allegations that a Planned Parenthood clinic in Houston illegally sold the tissue of aborted fetuses has cleared the organization of wrongdoing and instead indicted two anti-abortion activists behind the undercover videos that sparked the probe.

Secret videographers David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt were both indicted on charges of tampering with a governmental record, a second-degree felony that carries a punishment of up to 20 years in prison. Daleiden received an additional misdemeanor indictment under the law prohibiting the purchase and sale of human organs.

Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson announced the surprising indictments Monday after a two-month investigation.

“We were called upon to investigate allegations of criminal conduct by Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast,” said Anderson, a Republican. “As I stated at the outset of this investigation, we must go where the evidence leads us. All the evidence uncovered in the course of this investigation was presented to the grand jury. I respect their decision on this difficult case.”

The probe began after the Center for Medical Progress, an anti-abortion group run by Daleiden, released footage of the Houston clinic as part of a series of videos showing Planned Parenthood officials casually discussing the methods and costs of preserving fetal tissue for scientific research. That prompted allegations that the organization was profiting off of tissue — an allegation that was never proven — and sparked calls for an investigation from Gov. Greg Abbott, Attorney General Ken Paxton and others.


A spokeswoman for the Houston branch of Planned Parenthood said the news made the organization feel “vindicated.”

“It’s great news because it demonstrates what we have said from the very beginning, which is that Planned Parenthood is following every rule and regulation, and that these people came into our buildings under the guise of health when their true intentions were to spread lies,” said the spokeswoman, Rochelle Tafolla. “We’re glad that these extremists have been indicted for breaking the law.”

See here for the background. The irony in this is so thick one might choke on it. Greg Abbott made a feeble statement noting that the state was still investigating Planned Parenthood to find some pretext for justifying its decision to completely boot it off Medicaid, but that’s all been a load of hot air. The national office of Planned Parenthood has filed a federal lawsuit against these CMP idiots and their fraudulent shenanigans, and a separate federal lawsuit against the state of Texas for acting on their lies. I’m thinking both of those cases just got a solid boost. A statement from Sen. Sylvia Garcia on the indictments is here – it sure would be nice to hear from the idiot Texas Monthly columnist who fell for the CMP video hook, line, and sinker as well – and TPM, the Trib, Daily Kos, Think Progress, Trail Blazers, the Current, Juanita, Newsdesk, and the Press have more.

This week on “As Collin County Turns”

I swear, the Ken Paxton case is a giant vortex of political suck, absorbing everything in its wake.

Best mugshot ever

Best mugshot ever

The Collin County district judge who oversaw the grand jury indictment of state Attorney General Ken Paxton is now facing a complaint before the State Commission on Judicial Conduct.

Chris Oldner – whose comments about the politically charged case have drawn attention – was accused in a filing dated last week of judicial misconduct for “disparaging” Paxton, failing to recuse himself sooner, and potentially prejudicing the proceedings.

The campaign for Oldner, a Republican who is now running for the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, said the “complaint is completely without merit.”

“It’s just another just another example of how dark-money special interest groups seek to bully and intimidate ethical, conservative judges who strictly follow the law,” the campaign said. “It has to be humiliating that they had to resort to a young, low-level political operative to do their bidding.”

The grievance was filed by Aaron Harris, a North Richland Hills politico who’s worked on anti-bond efforts and other Tarrant County campaigns. Empower Texans, a conservative group that supports Paxton, first posted Harris’ complaint on Wednesday.

Harris laughed off the Oldner campaign’s response, adding that “if I’m the boogieman, that’s great.”

“It’s very telling that he doesn’t address the merits of the complaint,” he said. “And I have no idea where he gets ‘dark money’ or anything like that. … I’m not sure how a concerned citizen is a special interest group.”


They asked Tarrant County District Judge George Gallagher, who’s now overseeing the case, to quash the indictments over issues with how Oldner selected the grand jury. They also accused Oldner of leaking information about the indictment to his wife.

Oldner has said previously that he didn’t do anything wrong. And while Gallagher did not address the claims against Oldner, he denied a motion last month which raised Oldner’s actions as a reson to throw out the indictments.

Harris’ complaint echoes the concerns outlined by Paxton’s legal team. He focused on an interview that Oldner gave to WFAA-TV (Channel 8) in which the judge accused Paxton’s defense team of having “reached a desperate place.”

“As citizens, we have to hold our elected officials – judges or not – accountable,” Harris said. “And Judge Oldner’s behavior in this case is troublesome.”

See here for the background. You have to admire Aaron Harris’ ability to keep a straight face while hilariously casting himself as just plain ol’ folk doing the good work of keeping an eye on government. I mean, I could hear him twirling his mustache from here. I have no idea whether Oldner – who I remind you is a candidate for Court of Criminal Appeals in the GOP primary – crossed any lines in that WFAA interview or not. The State Commission on Judicial Conduct will sort that out in a few months. But man, this whole Paxton case is a cancer. Who else will wind up going down with his ship?

Grand jury indicts trooper in Sandra Bland case


Sandra Bland

Waller County grand jurors indicted Department of Public Safety trooper Brian Encinia on a single charge of perjury Wednesday because they did not believe he was telling the truth about his actions during the arrest of Sandra Bland, special prosecutor Darrell Jordan confirmed.

The charge against Encinia stems from the trooper’s statement at the time of her arrest on July 10 about why he felt he needed to pull her out of her own vehicle, Jordan told The Texas Tribune.

“The statement in the probable cause statement is that Officer Encinia pulled her out of her car to further the traffic stop investigation,” Jordan said.

As a result of the indictment – the only one issued by the grand jury in the Bland case – a warrant will be issued for Encinia’s arrest. It was not immediately known whether Encinia will turn himself into authorities. If convicted of the charge, Encinia could face up to a year in the Waller County Jail and a $4,000 fine.

“This grand jury is done,” Jordan said. “We just came to do our job to present the evidence and they came back with an indictment and we’ll go forward to seek justice on behalf of Waller County.”

The grand jury had previously declined to indict anyone, including county jail employees, in the death of Sandra Bland, then reconvened on Wednesday to continue considering charges. I have no idea what the evidence looks like right now, but it’s not too hard to imagine the possibility of the trooper fudging his facts. We will have to wait to see what the prosecution’s case looks like, and to see how Officer Encinia responds. The Chron, the Press, which has a copy of Officer Encinia’s sworn statement, Newsdesk, ThinkProgress, and Daily Kos have more.

UPDATE: More from Grits for Breakfast.

Paxton remains under indictment

Sorry, Kenny.

Best mugshot ever

Best mugshot ever

A state district judge on Friday rejected Ken Paxton’s request to throw out his three felony indictments, likely sending the first-term attorney general to trial next year unless his lawyers appeal the ruling.

“Yes, all the motions we filed have been denied,” said Philip Hilder, one of Paxton’s attorneys, Friday. “We are extremely disappointed with the court’s ruling today as we believe that each of the motions was well founded. And we are currently reviewing options at this point, which may include appeal.”


Gallagher’s Friday ruling is a huge blow to the attorney general’s team of high-powered lawyers, who presented their arguments to the court at a daylong hearing in Collin County earlier this month. Sitting in a courtroom filled with Paxton supporters, Gallagher heard the team’s many motions to quash. Several of their arguments laid the blame at the feet of state district Judge Chris Oldner, whom they accused of improperly empaneling the grand jury, entering the grand jury room when he shouldn’t have and divulging news of the indictments to his wife when they were meant to remain secret. Paxton’s attorneys did not call Oldner to testify at the hearing, however, so he went to the media to tell his side of the story.

See here for some background, and here for Oldner’s side of the story. The Trib, which notes that Judge Gallagher did grant a couple of Team Paxton’s minor motions, has a copy of the ruling. I am certain they will appeal this. What does Paxton have to lose, other than more money down the legal rathole? Remember, you can string this all out for a very long time. I expect nothing less.

Judge Older, who is running for the CCA this cycle, raises an interesting point;

He said the defense’s claims against him are emblematic of a split that has formed among Collin County Republicans between those who think Paxton is guilty and those standing by his side.

“We’re seeing a huge rift. Now, the question could be, was it there all along and this is just exposing it, or is this causing it? I think it’s a little bit of both,” Oldner said. “I don’t know if it’s just a political hit job or there are motivations beyond that. I hear different things from different people.”

That sounds an awful lot like a political opportunity to me. I don’t know what the candidate filing situation looks like in Collin County, but it seems to me that one could do worse than to tie one’s opponent to Ken Paxton over there. May not get you much, but it can’t hurt and if nothing else it would be nice to have some empirical evidence about how far the needle can be moved via this route. 2018 isn’t that far off, after all. The Scoop Blog has more.

Judge from Paxton grand jury hearing has his say

Time for more popcorn.

Best mugshot ever

Best mugshot ever

Once upon a time, Ken Paxton and Chris Oldner were political allies, dinner companions, and perhaps, even friends.

Not any more, though.

In legal filings and court hearings, Attorney General Ken Paxton’s legal team has taken a scorched earth approach to attacking Oldner, accusing the veteran Republican jurist of orchestrating a Machiavellian plot to get Paxton indicted by the grand jury that he oversaw.

“It’s a common tactic for criminal defendants; when they have reached a desperate place, they attack the process,” Judge Oldner said in an exclusive interview with News 8. “They attack prosecutors, they attack law enforcement, and they’ll even attack the judge.”


Last month, Oldner announced that rather than running for his current judicial post — a job he’s held for more than a decade — he was going to run for the Court of Criminal Appeals, the state’s highest criminal appeals court.

“Right now, we are facing an unprecedented time,” Oldner said. “The system and the integrity of the system is being attacked, and I think it’s important for strong, good, ethical judges to stand up and push back against the special interest.”

Oldner talks of “dark money agenda groups who use massive email lists and web sites to push an agenda.”

“When you face bullies, you have to stand up and push back,” he said.

See here, here, and here for the relevant background. There’s not a whole lot to learn in the story that we didn’t already know from the court filings and reports about them, but this was another amusing side note in the ongoing Paxton 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 this will come up in the primary. How will the seething masses of the GOP base react to Ken Paxton being used as a prop in an attack ad, one way or the other? We may find out.

Former Servergy CEO sues over Paxton-related costs

What a tangled web.

Best mugshot ever

Best mugshot ever

The former CEO of the technology startup named in Ken Paxton’s indictments is suing the company he founded for costs associated with the attorney general’s criminal investigation and ongoing legal battle.

William Mapp III, the founder and ex-CEO of McKinney tech firm Servergy Inc., says he “incurred and continues to incur attorney’s fees and expenses and may in the future incur other liabilities” from “grand jury proceedings and criminal indictment of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.”

Mapp also claims to have shouldered costs associated with an ongoing U.S. Securities and Exchange investigation into whether the company defrauded investors when he was CEO. Mapp is asking for more than $150,000, plus damages from Servergy for expenses he already has incurred and anticipates as Paxton’s court battle continues.

“It is routine for corporations to agree to advance and reimburse current and former officers and directors for legal fees in such circumstances, and Servergy is obligated through its bylaws to do so in this case,” said Kirby J. Smith, Mapp’s attorney. “Servergy has so far failed or refused to do so, leading to Mr. Mapp’s conclusion he had no choice but to file this lawsuit to obtain payments overdue to him.”


The SEC began investigating Servergy in 2013, and after the company failed to produce information demanded in multiple subpoenas, it sued in December 2014, to compel the production of records in an investigation of “possible misstatements and omissions related to Servergy’s purported business relationships and technology.”

At the same time, a group of investors, including House State Affairs Committee Chairman Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, also sued the company for access to Servergy’s books and records. Both suits ultimately were dropped after the documents were produced, but Mapp’s lawsuit suggests the SEC investigation is ongoing.

“Mapp has incurred and continues to incur attorneys’ fees and expenses and may in the future incur other liabilities in connection with the investigation of Servergy by the Securities and Exchange Commission,” the lawsuit reads. “Mapp has retained the law firm of Greenberg Traurig to aid in his defense of the SEC investigation.”

See here, here, and here for more on Servergy and William Mapp, who testified during the grand jury proceedings but has some potential credibility issues. His lawsuit was filed in Nevada, as that is where Servergy is incorporated, though its corporate office is here. I have no idea what if any effect this will have on the criminal case against Paxton – the possibility that the SEC is still investigating Servergy is intriguing but not necessarily relevant – I just thought it was worth noting.

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.

Paxton fires back at prosecutors


Best mugshot ever

Lawyers in Attorney General Ken Paxton’s ongoing securities fraud case have fired back against special prosecutors in the latest in a series of back-and-forth court filings.

In their Thursday filing, Paxton’s attorneys called the prosecutors’ reply to their motions to drop three felony charges “bombastic and diversionary.”

“Attorneys Pro Tem attempt sarcasm and inappropriate fictional analogies to mask their unsubstantive Reply that repeatedly misrepresents both Paxton’s arguments and the law,” the court filing said. “They are under the misguided belief that sound bites and quotes from fictional characters somehow trump law and documented facts.”


Paxton’s attorneys say the reply does not address their actual argument of improper grand juror qualification and that Paxton’s right to due process under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was violated.

The latest filing also claimed that prosecutors are enabling Oldner’s inappropriate actions as they “concoct a fiction that is unsupported in law or fact, to excuse his behavior.”

See here and here for the background. At this point, I think all future filings related to this should be more like this:

I’m far too amused by this case.

More prosecution responses to Paxton

Keep ’em coming, y’all.

Best mugshot ever

Prosecutors in the criminal case against Attorney General Ken Paxton defended themselves in a court filing Tuesday, calling accusations of misconduct leveled by defense lawyers a gratuitous ploy to direct attention away from Paxton’s felony indictments.

“Paxton’s ploy, as any Google search of this case will readily reveal, is merely the latest in a series of unwarranted personal attacks leveled against the special prosecutors in the media by Paxton’s spokesmen, public relations operatives and political supporters,” prosecutors told state District Judge George Gallagher.

The filing was the prosecutors’ second response to a broad attack launched last week by Paxton’s lawyers, who argued in court filings that three felony securities law violations should be dismissed because, among other problems, prosecutors disclosed secret grand jury proceedings in interviews with reporters, supplying information designed to taint the pool of prospective jurors.


The secrecy of grand jury proceedings, prosecutors argued, does not create a blanket ban on commenting about grand jury actions. Legal ethics also allow prosecutors to discuss the general scope of investigations, they told the judge.

“Paxton’s sole reason for filing this pleading is to cast the special prosecutors as the bad guys in the court of public opinion,” the prosecutors wrote.

See here and here for the background, and here for a copy of this motion. I’m not sure what the purpose is of filing two separate responses like this, but the prosecution did maintain its rather dismissive tone towards Paxton’s motion. In this case, they began with a quote from Mad Men, and on page four cited the Merriam-Webster definition of the word “series” to dispute another of Team Paxton’s allegations. This may already be the greatest special prosecution of an incumbent Texas politician ever, and we’re still in pre-game warmups. I can’t wait to see what comes next. The Press has more.

Paxton moves to dismiss the charges against him

To be expected.

Best mugshot ever

[Ken] Paxton’s legal team announced late Monday it had filed six motions to quash the three indictments against him, citing problems with the grand jury process. They also raised other objections to the case in four pretrial applications for writ of habeas corpus.

A Collin County grand jury indicted Paxton earlier this year on charges of misleading investors in a technology company before he was attorney general. Paxton pleaded not guilty.

Paxton’s legal team has raised the prospect that the grand jury was “empaneled in a matter inconsistent with law.” Last month, his lawyers won access to information related to the makeup of the panel.

The special prosecutors handling the indictments have maintained “absolutely nothing improper” happened in the formation of the grand jury. In a statement late Friday, special prosecutor Brian Wice said the motions to quash are “so clearly baseless, neither merits comment.”

A copy of the motions can be found at the DMN Scoop blog, which contains some other interesting tidbits.

Among the allegations in the motion to quash are that [District Judge Chris] Oldner [who oversaw the selection of the grand jurors in Collin County who indicted Paxton] breached the secrecy of the grand jury process by telling his wife that Paxton had been indicted. His wife, Cissy Oldner, then told Collin County commissioner Susan Fletcher about the sealed indictments, according to allegations in the defense’s motion.

Oldner also is accused of entering the grand jury room two separate times during the July 7 session when Paxton was indicted on the charge of failing to register as a securities agent. The defense team also states that Oldner improperly held onto that July 7 indictment until July 28.

The judge, who ultimately recused himself from the case, also issued warrants for Paxton’s arrest rather than allowing him to appear by summons. “It is reasonable to deduce that this was a vindictive action meant to publicly embarrass and humiliate Paxton,” the defense motion states.


Among the other motions filed late Monday:

– One accused the special prosecutors of improperly providing details to the media about the evidence going before the grand jury. The special prosecutors are also accused of improperly leaking details from the July indictments to media before the indictments were unsealed. The defense motion calls the media interviews and leaks “a clear attempt to taint the potential criminal jury pool.”

– One alleges the indictment for failure to register as a securities agent must be quashed because the three-year statute of limitations on prosecution had passed. The indictment came July 7. Any solicitation by Paxton occurred on or before June 26, 2012, according to the defense team’s motion.

– Two motions sought to quash the indictments because they failed to give adequate notice of specific charges against Paxton and failed to state the specific offense. For example, according to the motion, the indictment failed to say whether Paxton had solicited potential clients or advised existing clients. In another example, the securities fraud indictments allege Paxton was compensated with 100,000 shares of Servergy stock in each of the two instances. But Paxton had only 100,000 shares total, creating an inconsistency that should prompt the indictments to be quashed, the defense argued.

– One moved to quash the indictments because the cases were not referred by the Texas State Securities Board, which has primary jurisdiction over security offenses. The motion also argued that Paxton was already sanctioned by the securities board for failing to register as a securities agent. Seeking criminal charges for the same action would constitute double jeopardy, the motion alleged.

This story provides more details of the defense’s claims, as well as some analysis of their chances for success.

“There is a perception that there are people that are in the pro-Paxton camp,” said Plano attorney Todd Shapiro, who is the son of former Republican state Sen. Florence Shapiro, who was succeeded in her Senate seat by Paxton. “There are others that are in the anti-Paxton camp.”

Paxton’s attorneys accuse Oldner of tainting the grand jury process by violating the secrecy of the panel by talking to his wife about the indictments. Rumors about the judge’s wife and potential judicial misconduct have been circulating for months. Paxton’s supporters have accused the judge of being out to get the attorney general.


In the affidavit, [Collin County Commissioner Susan] Fletcher describes herself as a longtime friend of Paxton. She also says Cissy Oldner helped with her successful campaign for election to county commissioner. The motion also includes text messages between Oldner’s wife and Fletcher in the weeks before the July indictments.

“Your friend Paxton has not had a good week,” Cissy Oldner said in a text. And later that same night: “This is exactly what we told you was going to happen to Paxton. It’s worse than we ever thought. Over 100k. Ouch.”

Cissy Oldner described herself in a text as “gloating,” presumably over Paxton’s legal troubles. At the time, a grand jury overseen by her husband was beginning to hear evidence against Paxton.

“I understood Cissy’s comments to mean Paxton’s case was not going well for him,” Fletcher wrote.

In her affidavit, Fletcher describes the events that took place on July 28 — the same day that a grand jury handed down twin securities fraud indictments against Paxton. She said Cissy Oldner told her about the indictments around 4:48 p.m.

“I replied to her that I was sorry to hear about Mr. Paxton’s indictment, but did not want to be involved in the matter,” Fletcher wrote. “Cissy reminded me that she had warned me this was going to happen.”

Fletcher said she asked if Judge Oldner was going to recuse himself from the case. Cissy Oldner replied that he would not, she says in the affidavit.

“Cissy also said this was a controversial case, and people will be wondering if the prosecution was politically-motivated,” the affidavit quotes Fletcher as saying. “Cissy encouraged me to remind everyone that this is the process, and the legal process needs to play out. Cissy continued that this was very embarrassing for our county and for Texas. I told her again that I would prefer to step back and not discuss the matter or comment further.”

A little over an hour later, Fletcher said she got another call from Oldner’s wife, telling her not to tell anyone about the indictments because they were sealed. But it was too late; Fletcher had already told other county officials about Cissy Oldner’s call.


“If he disclosed even the fact of the indictment to his wife, that’s not proper,” said retired state district Judge Michael Snipes. “Even though it’s his wife, that’s not allowed.”

He also said if Oldner did enter the grand jury room while it was in session — as Paxton’s attorneys have alleged in the motion — then that also was improper.

But if even if it happened, Snipes says, “they can’t show prejudice, and you’ve got to show prejudice to quash the indictment.”

He said he does not believe the Tarrant County judge presiding over the case will toss the indictments based on that motion.

Snipes also said did not see selection of the grand jurors as improper.

There’s more in both stories, so go read the whole thing. Paxton is certainly getting his money’s worth out of his defense team, whether he has to pay for them or not. I’d be interested to hear what the lawyers out there think of the defense team’s filings – do you agree with Judge Snipes and Todd Shapiro, who saw it the same way? What it says to me is that we are in for the long haul. Remember how long it took for the Tom DeLay case to get to trial? (Actually, off the top of my head, I don’t remember how long it took, but thankfully Wikipedia reminds me that it was five years from indictment/arrest to the first day of trial.) Basically, the trial judge will eventually rule on the motions (after the prosecution responds and both sides make oral arguments), then it goes to the district appeals court, then finally the Court of Criminal Appeals. So yeah, we’re probably measuring things in years at this point, meaning my suggestion that an already-convicted Paxton could be on the ballot in 2018 is way too optimistic. We may not even know if he has to go to trial by then. WFAA, the Statesman, and the Lone Star Project have more.