Texas Court Throws Future of Criminal Case Against AG Ken Paxton Into Question With New Ruling

AUSTIN — A top Texas court has declined to reconsider its ruling to strike down the hourly wages paid to the special prosecutors investigating Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.In a decision that could jeopardize the years-long criminal case against the state's top lawyer, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Wednesday declined the prosecutors' request to rehear their argument that their $300-an-hour fee was legal and appropriate. The judges did not provide any explanation. Their decision means the court's November 2018 ruling, in which it struck down this fee, stands. In July 2015, a Collin County grand jury indicted Paxton for allegedly duping people to invest in a McKinney technology firm while pocketing a commission. The felony fraud charges against him carry a maximum sentence of up to 99 years in prison and tens of thousands in fines. These cases are usually handled by locally elected prosecutors, but Collin County District Attorney Greg Willis recused himself from the investigation because he is a longtime friend of Paxton's. Three private attorneys were then named to take over the case, and told they could expect $300-an-hour for their work. Collin County taxpayers, who are on the hook to fund the prosecution, paid one invoice topping $200,000. But local budget writers refused to cut the prosecutors' second six-figure check, and took them to court, claiming their hourly wages broke state and local fee caps for court-appointed attorneys.The Court of Criminal Appeals sided with Collin County last year. But the prosecutors asked it to reconsider its ruling, which the court declined to do on Wednesday.The prosecutors have not been paid for their work on the case in years and had threatened to step down if the court ruled against them yet again. They did not immediately respond to request for comment on whether they would leave the case, which could imperil the entire prosecution.It's unclear where Paxton's case will go from here. As the indictments against the attorney general turn four years old next month, Wednesday's ruling could derail and will most certainly delay Paxton facing a jury of his peers. Paxton, a Republican, has been re-elected in the four years since he was indicted. He has denied the charges against him, which he called politically motivated.  Continue reading...

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