Collin County DA's Replacements Picked in Paxton Probe

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks at the grand opening of the Texas Public Policy Foundation's new Austin building on April 21, 2015.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks at the grand opening of the Texas Public Policy Foundation's new Austin building on April 21, 2015.

*Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout.

Two Houston attorneys have been appointed to replace Collin County District Attorney Greg Willis in any potential prosecution of Attorney General Ken Paxton for violating state securities law.

The Texas Rangers are currently investigating Paxton, whose relationship with Willis has raised questions about how Collin County would handle the case. 

Kent Schaffer and Brian Wice will serve as criminal district attorneys pro tem, according to an order signed Tuesday by Scott Becker, a judge in Collin County district court. The order leaves open the possibility of "further additional appointments." 

Earlier this week, Willis asked to step aside as the Rangers look into Paxton, a friend and business partner. Becker granted that request, ensuring Willis will not be involved in any potential prosecution of Paxton for breaking state securities law in Collin County.

 

Paxton admitted last year to soliciting investment clients for another friend and business partner without properly registering with the state. He was reprimanded and fined $1,000 by the State Securities Board.

While neither Schaffer nor Wice have worked as prosecutors, both have extensive criminal defense backgrounds.

"Both of us have been special prosecutors on high- profile matters, and are keenly aware of our oaths 'not to convict, but to see that justice is done,'" Wice said in a statement. "Our investigation, one whose scope and duration we cannot predict, will be full and fair and will take us wherever the facts lead us without regard to partisan politics. "

Wice recently worked on the defense team of NFL star Adrian Peterson with attorney Rusty Hardin and is the legal analyst for KPRC-TV in Houston. Peterson pleaded no contest to a child abuse charge for disciplining his son with a wooden switch. He was sentenced to probation. 

Wice is most known as a member of the team that won an appeal of the 2010 conviction of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. A Travis County jury convicted the former lawmaker of conspiring to launder $190,000 in campaign donations to seven Texas legislative candidates. But the 3rd Court of Appeals reversed the conviction, and that decision was upheld by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. 

Schaffer has represented high-profile politicians and business leaders, including R. Allen Stanford and former U.S. Rep. Craig Washington, and has handled legal affairs for athletes and celebrities including Farrah Fawcett. 

Disclosure: Rusty Hardin is a major donor to The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Texas Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

 

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