A stunning pattern of misconduct by Collin County Judge Chris Oldner gives further weight to allegations that indictments against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton are politically motivated.
Earlier this year, a Collin County Grand Jury picked by Oldner indicted Paxton on three felony charges related to state securities laws. At that time, securities attorneys familiar with the case questioned the validity of the legal theories alleged in the indictments.
Now Paxton’s attorneys are asking for the indictments to be quashed, citing a pattern of misconduct by Judge Oldner that Paxton’s attorneys say violated his rights to due process.
Judge Oldner recused himself from the case the day that Paxton turned himself in for booking. From the motion to quash, we now know that Oldner did so because it was revealed that he had leaked confidential grand jury information to his wife, who then further spread the information around Collin County.
However, Oldner’s misbehavior went much deeper than the leak to his spouse. “Judge Oldner engaged in purposeful and cumulative efforts to subvert the Grand Jury process,” Paxton’s attorneys, Philip Hilder and Dan Cogdell, allege in the motion to quash. “It is reasonable to deduce that this was a vindictive action meant to publicly embarrass and humiliate Paxton.”
The motion to quash describes a litany of abuses, including violating the grand jury impanelment process, sealing the names of grand jurors thus denying Paxton and the public the opportunity to challenge the grand jury selection process in open court, repeatedly entering the grand jury room while the grand jury was in session, and improperly withholding the indictments from the Collin County Clerk for several weeks against state law.
The motion to quash also explains that Oldner vindictively issued arrest warrants in Paxton’s case after Paxton’s attorneys had already made arrangements for a summons to turn himself in for booking. Oldner also required Paxton to post bonds even after special prosecutors assigned to the case conceded that Paxton was not a flight risk and informed him they did not oppose the issuance of PR bonds.
Perhaps most disturbing of all is the allegation, contained on page 15 of the motion to quash, that Oldner “somehow arranged to have Paxton’s case assigned to his trial court.” Thankfully Oldner was forced to recuse himself. If he had not been removed from the case, it seems clear that Oldner was prepared to shepherd Paxton’s case towards a conviction. Though such a conviction would be subject to reversal on appeal, Oldner would have had the power to use jury instructions to secure a conviction that would have been used against Paxton by his dishonest and unethical political opponents.
By indicting Paxton on first-degree felony charges, his political opponents are asking Texans to lock him away from his family for the rest of his life for what can only be reasonably described as innocent behavior. This tactic is the shadow image of a frame-job. Instead of manufacturing facts to allege that Paxton committed a real crime, his enemies have taken a set of non-criminal actions and distorted vague and overbroad laws to allege that innocent behavior is a crime.
Texans must not allow vindictive politicians and political consultants to weaponize the criminal justice system and use it against their opponents — thereby robbing Texans of the rights they exercise at the ballot box.