Over objections from the defense, District Judge George Gallagher has ordered the criminal prosecution of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton moved to Harris County. The decision will give the special prosecutors in the case, two criminal attorneys from Houston, home-court advantage while denying Paxton his constitutional rights to a speedy trial and a jury of his peers.
The case is being prosecuted by Houston criminal attorneys Kent Schaffer and Brian Wice. Schaffer was recently in the news after federal prosecutors alleged he was an unindicted co-conspirator involved as an attorney with the day-to-day operations of the Bandidos motorcycle gang. Wice is an attorney well-known in the Houston area as showboat and television commentator.
The prosecutors asked Gallagher to move the trial out of Collin County in a bizarre filing in February. In the motion, Schaffer and Wice alleged an absurd conspiracy theory involving all of their critics on social media engaged in an attempt to “taint” the jury pool in Collin County.
Gallagher granted the motion despite them being very rarely ever granted when brought by the prosecution, and despite the prosecutors failing to allege any evidence that a trial could not be safely conducted in Collin County, the standard by which such motions are supposed to be evaluated.
It is not yet clear when the trial will take place or if Gallagher will remain as the judge on the case.
Jury selection for Paxton’s trial had originally been scheduled to begin on April 20th. The prosecutors first broke an agreement with the Defense by postponing trial on the more serious charges against Paxton, and then sought to delay the entirety of the trial through a variety of motions.
Under the prosecutors’ current plans, and given delays associated with the motion to transfer venue, Paxton’s case may not be resolved until well into 2018.
These moves appear designed to buy time for the prosecutors to find witnesses to support their charges and to protect State Rep. Byron Cook (R–Corsicana), the prosecution’s key witness against Paxton.
Despite the change in venue, the prosecutors are continuing to seek to have Collin County taxpayers pay their fees on the case which has already run up a legal tab of over half a million dollars. The Dallas Court of Appeals is expected to rule later this year on whether their $300 per hour fee, which will push the cost into the millions during the actual trial, violates state law.