The special prosecutors who are pursuing indictments against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton now want his trial delayed until a separate case related to their pay is resolved. While those delays may appear to be an effort to run up the bill, they are more likely attributed to politics.

Brian Wice and Kent Schaffer filed a motion for continuance, asking the judge who will preside over Paxton’s trial to delay it until a separate case related to their pay is resolved. Empower Texans President Michael Quinn Sullivan argues this is the latest evidence the whole case is just a profit-making scheme for the Houston criminal attorneys.

However, the move is now the third action taken by the prosecutors in recent weeks that appears designed to protect State Rep. Byron Cook (R–Corsicana), the prosecutors’ lead witness and purported “victim,” from having to testify.

First, the prosecutors sought to have the trial transferred out of Collin County. In a bizarre and unprofessional filing, Wice and Schaffer attempted to paint a conspiracy theory in which all of their critics on social media are united in an effort to “taint” the county jury pool. A move would have required the trial to be delayed. The judge didn’t buy it.

Next, the prosecutors reneged on a long-established agreement with Paxton’s defense team to try all of the indictments against Paxton at once. Now they want to try the third-degree felony failure-to-register indictment against Paxton first before holding a second trial on securities fraud charges. Because the failure-to-register indictment is for a victimless crime, Cook may not be required to testify on it if it covered in a separate trial.

Now, the prosecutors are using an order from the Dallas Court of Appeals preventing them from being paid as an excuse to ask the judge to delay the trial once again. The Court of Appeals is looking at whether the rate guaranteed to the prosecutors by a local judge violates state law.

In January, Texas Scorecard reported on emails between Paxton’s defense team and Byron Cook’s lawyer in which Cook walked-back allegations made against Paxton in the federal suit brought by the Obama administration Securities and Exchange Commission. The backpedaling appeared to be an effort to protect Cook from being ensnared by his own lies in a separate fraud case brought against him by a business partner.

Paxton has now been exonerated in that federal suit. The judge decided that Cook’s allegations against Paxton could never be considered a violation of federal securities laws.

With Cook backpedaling and the trial against Paxton scheduled for the busiest part of the legislative session, Texas Scorecard asked whether Cook might be forced to plead the Fifth in order to avoid giving testimony that could incriminate him in his own fraud trial.

These latest delay tactics appear to answer that question. If the prosecutors can delay their trial until after the legislative session, or even after Cook’s own fraud case goes to trial, they may be able to have Cook available to testify against Paxton.

No doubt Kent Schaffer, Brian Wice, and the other attorneys who are working against Paxton want to get paid. Indeed, Schaffer was just thrown off of a case defending the head of the Bandidos motorcycle gang, so he may need the income.

However, the case against Paxton has always been about politics. And these latest moves are about protecting Byron Cook from being forced to choose between testifying against Paxton and possibly having his words used against him in his own civil or criminal matters, or pleading the Fifth and sinking the case.

Tony McDonald

Tony McDonald serves as General Counsel to Texas Scorecard. A licensed and practicing attorney, Tony specializes in the areas of civil litigation, legislative lawyering, and non-profit regulatory compliance. Tony resides in Austin with his wife and daughter and attends St. Paul Lutheran Church.