Judge Mandates Depositions for Attorney General Paxton and Associates in Corruption Case, Potential Compulsion to Testify


In a case involving Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, four people who spoke out asked a Travis County judge last month to force the AG to appear in court for questioning. Paxton and his staff would have to take oaths and answer questions about claims of bribes and corruption.

It was decided upon by Judge Jan Soifer, who was the district judge in this case.

People who work for or have worked for Paxton for a long time, including first assistant attorney general Brent Webster, chief of staff with the Office of the Attorney General Lesley French Henneke, and longtime Paxton aide Michelle Smith, will have to give depositions about the claims made against Paxton.

Tom Nesbitt, the lawyer for the informants, says that Paxton was served with papers in the case the same day.

A lawyer for whistleblowers, Tom Nesbitt, says that Paxton was served earlier that same day at a restaurant in Austin.

In this case, I think the plaintiffs have shown good cause that these four people know specific and better information that can be discovered,” Judge Soifer said from the bench.

She went on to say that the four people were “not just leads” but also knew about things that were “at the heart” of the case.

Paxton filed an appeal, saying that the court’s decision would make it harder for the state to settle cases. The attorney general’s office said in a statement about the appeal that the case was already over and that the trial court was breaking the deal that the agency and its former workers made by letting the “unlimited and unprecedented discovery” go forward.

“They lost very badly,” Nesbitt told the press after the meeting. I never think twice about what Ken Paxton might do. He will spend as much public money as it takes to avoid being held accountable, so I’m sure they’ll try some kind of appeal.

The four former top agents who spoke out are Blake Brickman, Ryan Vassar, David Maxwell, and Mark Penley. They sued Paxton in 2020, saying he fired them wrongly after they told the FBI about him. They said he was abusing his power to help Nate Paul, a rich friend and donor.

At the beginning of this year, Paul gave important evidence in Paxton’s impeachment trial. And Paxton didn’t even have to be questioned or witness in his own case. He also didn’t show up for most of the trial.

In February, they were close to settling with Paxton for $3.3 million, but the Texas House didn’t want to pay that much with taxpayer money, so they chose to look into the claims. That led to Paxton being removed from office by the House in May. After a trial in September, the Senate found him not guilty.

The whistleblowers wanted to start their lawsuit up again after the impeachment decision, and the Texas Supreme Court gave them permission to do so. However, Paxton’s office quickly fought the new case in Travis County by suing the whistleblowers in nearby Burnet County to stop it.

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One of those attempts was turned down by Burnet County, and Paxton’s lawyers have not yet started working on a new fight.

Earlier in the hearing, Soifer ruled against Paxton’s side and turned down their request to enforce the tentative settlement deal. They were making their latest attempt to end the case in Travis County by saying it was already over.

They’ve made that case even though the Legislature hasn’t yet agreed to the $3.3 million, which was one of the terms of the deal.

Soifer said, “It’s written in simple English.

In terms of the depositions, Nesbitt said Paxton’s evidence was the most important. His office has told the public that Paxton is the “decision-maker” when it comes to hiring and firing staff.

Nesbitt told Soifer, “Ken Paxton made these decisions.” He also said that it is almost unheard of for someone to claim in an employment case that the “decision-maker… somehow doesn’t have special knowledge, doesn’t have unique knowledge.”

Nessebitt said it was just a coincidence that Paxton was served with his deposition on the same day as the meeting.

It’s been a long time since we’ve seen him, Nesbitt said. The guy hides, you know. That’s how we finally found him. We were told that he would be at a certain place at a certain time.

He didn’t say what place Paxton was served at. He said that Paxton was having “some kind of little holiday lunch” at the time.

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