A Texas court on Monday temporarily halted more than $200,000 to prosecutors in the criminal case against Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton after one his donors sued over the mounting legal bills footed by taxpayers.
The ruling comes as Paxton awaits trial in May on securities fraud charges. An attorney for the prosecutors said he expected a swift resolution from the Dallas-based Fifth Court of Appeals and accused Paxton supporter Jeffory Blackard of trying to derail the criminal case with a fight over legal fees.
Blackard, a real estate developer who has given at least $1,200 to Paxton but not since 2011, has twice sued over the $300 hourly rate given to special prosecutors. The bills are paid by taxpayers in Collin County, a politically conservative suburb where Paxton lives and also where a grand jury indicted him in 2015 on charges of defrauding investors in a tech startup.
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Paxton has pleaded not guilty and faces 5 to 99 years in prison if convicted.
Edward Greim, an attorney for Blackard, dismissed accusations of trying to stonewall Paxton's case and said his client is only trying to do what's right.
"It's unfortunate that every time the taxpayers try to argue the law in this case, the Attorneys Pro Tem resort to arguing politics and using the media to attack the defendant they're trying to prosecute," Greim wrote in an email.
The court halted payments until it can review arguments next month.
"This guy is not going to walk because he's got a friend with a lot of money who can keep brining lawsuits over fees," said David Feldmam, an attorney for the prosecutors.
Paxton was indicted eight months after winning his 2014 election in a landslide. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission was also trying to revive a civil lawsuit against Paxton after a federal judge threw out the original charges filed by federal regulators last year. Paxton has signaled he intends to run for re-election in 2018.