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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Prosecutors who say they're owed more than $200,000 for bringing a criminal case against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton asked a judge Thursday to push back the May securities fraud trial until they get paid.
The sudden request throws into doubt when Paxton, a Republican who was indicted six months after taking office in January 2015, will face a jury on felony charges of deceiving investors in a tech startup. He has pleaded not guilty.
Jury selection is scheduled to begin in April. But special prosecutors for months have waged a separate battle on the side to get paid after a wealthy Paxton supporter sued over the mounting legal tab.
Jeffory Blackard, a Dallas real estate developer and former Paxton donor, has accused prosecutors of charging taxpayers too much with a $300 hourly rate. He succeeded in getting a Texas court to temporarily prevent Collin County — where Paxton lives and where he will stand trial — from paying three special prosecutors pending a final ruling.
"Everyone in the courtroom is being paid to be there except us. No one expected us to work for free when we accepted our appointment as special prosecutors," prosecutor Brian Wice said in a statement.
Prosecutors asked state District Judge George Gallagher to set a new trial date after they get paid, saying it would "certainly" occur no later than September. It is unclear when Gallagher might rule.
Paxton attorney Bill Mateja said he will oppose the request for a delay. He did not comment further.
If convicted, Paxton faces five to 99 years in prison. The charges stem from 2011, when Paxton was still a state lawmaker, and he lined up money for a tech startup called Servergy Inc. without telling investors he was being paid by the company. Paxton has argued that he was under no obligation to do so.
A federal judge agreed earlier this month, dismissing similar accusations filed by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in a separate case. That ruling has no bearing on Paxton's criminal case but was still a key victory.
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