COLLIN COUNTY (CBS 11 NEWS) – Collin County taxpayers just got the first of what could be many unexpectedly high legal bills for the criminal case against state Attorney General Ken Paxton.READ MORE: Texas Detectives Dismantle Drug Lab, Seize 50 Pounds Of Meth And Skull Grip Handgun
The securities fraud case is not even close to trial, but the bills submitted by the special prosecutors assigned to the case have already exceeded the county’s entire budget for it.
Collin County Commissioners were advised by experts that the criminal prosecution of Attorney General Ken Paxton would probably cost taxpayers about $30,000, mostly to pay the special prosecutors. So they approved $100,000 to be safe. But this week those prosecutors submitted bills more than twice that.
McKinney resident and international real estate developer Jeff Blackard has filed a lawsuit and will seek a restraining order in court preventing Collin County from paying a Houston law firm $254,000 in accumulated legal fees for the securities fraud case against Paxton.
Blackard said there is no way to estimate how high the bills will go. “It could cost a million dollars.”
CBS 11 News obtained itemized copies of the time sheets submitted by attorneys Kent Shaffer and Brian Wice, who were handpicked by Collin County Judge Scott Becker when District Attorney Greg Willis had to recuse himself.READ MORE: Now Hiring: Mouser Electronics Hiring For Dozens Of Positions
The expenses include hotel rooms, airfares, and taxis that some attorneys say aren’t legally reimbursable. They also reveal multiple 12-hour round trips from Houston to North Texas to prosecute the case… all the while charging the county $300 an hour.
“What counties do here when there’s a conflict, and you have to hire another DA, you go to your next county and get one of their DAs. A lot of times they do it for free,” explained Blackard.
One of the special prosecutors responded to Blackard’s complaint. Special Prosecutor Wice said, “While one of Mr. Paxton’s prominent supporters has filed a groundless and gratuitous civil suit attempting to tell Judge Gallagher how to run his courtroom, that is no concern to us.”
When Kaufman County hired two special prosecutors for the capital murder trial of Eric Williams, the man ultimate convicted of killing a district attorney and assistant district attorney, the entire bill for the death penalty case was $370,000 — and that was over a two-year period.
Blackard says Collin County taxpayers are being taken advantage of. “The reason I’m trying to stop it is when [those in] Collin County understand what’s going on, the taxpayers will see this is completely out of hand.”
Paxton is accused of encouraging wealthy investors to pump more than $100,000 into a tech startup called Servergy without revealing he was being paid by the company. Paxton now faces two counts of first-degree securities fraud and a lesser charge of failing to register. Each count carries a punishment of five to 99 years in prison.MORE NEWS: Cook Children's Medical Center Relaxing Visitation Policy, Allowing 2nd Primary Caregiver Inside
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