AUSTIN (CN) – Criminal prosecutors in Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s securities fraud case have sued Paxton to try to block a newspaper’s request for records in the case, claiming it would violate Paxton’s privacy.
Special prosecutors Kent Schaffer, Brian Wice and Nicole Deborde sued Paxton in Travis County Court on Thursday. They oppose an Oct. 14 open records request from The Dallas Morning News for “copies of all records turned over thus far to the defense” in discovery.
Paxton is accused of fraudulently selling more than $100,000 in Servergy stock to two investors in July 2011 without disclosing he would be paid commissions on it. He also failed to disclose that he had been given 100,000 shares in the company but had not invested in the company himself, according to the Collin County grand jury indictment .
Schaffer immediately rejected the newspaper’s request. Wice then submitted a request to Paxton’s office for an opinion.
Paxton’s office responded on Jan. 4 that the prosecutors failed to comply with the law by asking for the opinion and ordered the information released.
But the prosecutors say disclosure of discovery turned over to Paxton’s defense attorneys is not required under the Texas Public Information Act.
“Such disclosure would hinder ongoing prosecution of the underlying case, be in direct violation of a court order, and violate the privacy and property rights of Ken Paxton,” the complaint states. “The information requested is excepted from disclosure under the Act. Section 522.108 of the Act provides that ‘[i]nformation held by a … prosecutor that deals with the detection, investigation, or prosecution of crime is excepted from the requirements of Section 552.021 if: (1) release of the information would interfere with the detection, investigation, or prosecution of crime.'”
Release of information in an open case is “presumed to interfere” with the ongoing criminal investigation, the complaint states.
The prosecutors say the requested information may implicate Paxton’s privacy and property interests, including his right to an impartial trial, and would violate a gag order imposed by state District Judge George Gallagher.
“The judge presiding over these matters issued a directive to all counsel, under threat of sanction, that no evidence was to be released to the press that has not been presented in open court,” the complaint states. “Judge Gallagher’s order is further bolstered by the Supreme Court’s insistence that legal trials are not to be won through the use of the media.”
The prosecutors seek declaratory judgment against Paxton’s Jan. 4 opinion. They are represented by David M. Feldman in Houston.
Feldman described the lawsuit as “meeting yourself coming around the corner.”
He told the Austin American-Statesman that “we’re having to sue the AG so we don’t have to disclose information adverse to the AG that we shouldn’t have to disclose under the law.”
Attorney general spokeswoman Cynthia Meyer said screening procedures keep Paxton from reviewing a request for a ruling on open records requests in cases involving him. She told the American-Statesman the inquiry was handled by the chairman of the agency’s opinion committee and the general counsel.
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