Texas AG Ken Paxton: Brown County Attorney's Program Was Not Operating Within the Law

AUSTIN -- Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said Tuesday that a controversial donation program within the Brown County attorney's office did not comply with state law. A report from the Texas Observer last month found that the office was using fees collected through its pretrial diversion program as donations to pay for travel, cellphones for employees and advertisements in the local high school's cheer calendar. Pretrial diversion programs allow people to avoid prosecution for certain misdemeanors by following terms outlined by a prosecutor. Brown County Attorney Shane Britton reportedly set fees for people who opted to go through the program, sometimes pressuring people who fell behind on payments by tacking on late fees. Here's how it worked, according to the Observer: A woman might come to court with a first-time DWI charge, facing six months in jail, a $2,000 fine paid to the county, plus $3,000 more in state surcharges to keep her driver's license. Britton would offer her a deal: $2,000 up front and he'd drop the charge. The county clerk's office would get a $250 processing fee, and the rest would be "donated" to Britton's office.In his opinion, Paxton argued Tuesday that the attorney's office is authorized to receive gifts and donations, but they must be used for the office's operation -- not as a condition of a pretrial intervention agreement.Britton did not return a request for comment.  Continue reading...

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