Judge moves, pushes Texas attorney general's criminal trial

AP News
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Posted: Mar 30, 2017 12:24 PM
Judge moves, pushes Texas attorney general's criminal trial

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A judge on Thursday postponed the criminal trial of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and moved the case from the Republican's hometown.

The decision comes a month before Paxton was scheduled to face a jury on felony securities fraud charges. He's accused of steering investors toward a tech startup without disclosing he was being paid by the company.

State District Judge George Gallagher didn't immediately set a new trial date.

The delay comes after prosecutors threatened to quit the case over not being paid. They say they're owed more than $200,000 and haven't been paid in more than a year. That money is tied up in court after a Paxton supporter sued over the mounting legal fees footed by taxpayers.

Paxton has pleaded not guilty.

Special prosecutors had claimed the jury pool in suburban Collin County, outside of Dallas, has been tainted by Republican supporters and even former GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum. They told Gallagher that a "two-year long crusade" of lawsuits, social media posts, leaks and a public relations blitz surrounding the case has made it impossible to get a fair and impartial trial.

The decision also give prosecutors more time — something else they sought amid an ongoing fight over their legal fees.

Supporters of Paxton have made an issue of the $300-an-hour fees being charged by the special prosecutors, who are paid with taxpayer dollars in Collin County. A three-judge panel of a Dallas appeals court agreed to halt payments on the $200,000 in legal bills while it considers a lawsuit filed by Jeff Blackard, a wealthy Dallas developer and onetime Paxton political donor, who has argued that the fees were excessive and costing taxpayers too much.

In two years in office — nearly all of which has been spent under indictment — the 54-year-old Paxton has taken the mantle as Texas' freedom-loving, federal government-suing defender of conservative causes. He led the lawsuits that halted former President Barack Obama's efforts to expand transgender rights and challenged a Texas school district's designation of a Muslim student prayer room.

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