*Editor's note: This story has been updated with comment from special prosecutors Kent Schaffer and Brian Wice.
Attorney General Ken Paxton's camp fired back Thursday at the special prosecutors who have said they are preparing a felony case against him, calling them inexperienced prosecutors driven by politics.
"This appears to be a politically motivated effort to ruin the career of a longtime public servant," Paxton spokesman Anthony Holm said in a statement that also accused the two attorneys of building their case in the press. "These attacks on Ken Paxton appear to have become a political hit-job in the media, perhaps having the effect of inappropriately influencing the grand jury."
Holm's statement came the day after special prosecutor Kent Schaffer said he and co-counsel Brian Wice were "pursuing an indictment for first-degree felony securities fraud." Schaffer and Wice were tapped earlier this year to handle any potential prosecution of Paxton stemming from his admission last year that he broke state securities law.
The special prosecutors returned fire later Thursday afternoon with their own statement that said Holm's statement "recycles the usual sound bites, culled from the play book of any public official whose conduct places them in the cross-hairs of a grand-jury investigation."
Holm said Thursday that neither Schaffer nor Wice have "significant prosecutorial experience," adding that it appears only one case has been prosecuted between the two of them. Neither Schaffer nor Wice has worked as a prosecutor, but both have extensive backgrounds in criminal defense. Wice was on the team that defended former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, against corruption and money laundering charges.
"Not only do they appear inexperienced as prosecutors, they are from Houston," Holm said. "Meanwhile thousands of experienced prosecutors and former prosecutors are in the Dallas area."
Questioning why their hometown "comes within a time zone of relevance," the special prosecutors countered that Paxton, as the subject of a grand jury investigation, does not get to make that call, anyway. In any case, Schaffer and Wice wrote they have "over seven decades of trial and appellate experience as two of Texas's most respected criminal lawyers."
Their appointments came after Dallas and Travis County prosecutors passed on bringing a case against Paxton — something Holm has stressed in the past and did again Thursday. He also pointed out the State Securities Board declined to take criminal action against Paxton, whom it reprimanded and fined $1,000 after he copped to soliciting investment clients for a friend and business partner without properly registering with the state.
Schaffer and Wice rebutted that point from Holm as well.
"Neither the [securities board], nor the Dallas and Travis County District Attorney's Offices, have looked at the matters which we have been tasked with investigating through the same prism as we have, or with the benefit of the evidence being amassed by the Texas Rangers that none of these agencies had before them," the special prosecutors said.
The contentious back-and-forth Thursday was just the latest reminder that Paxton's legal troubles are not going away.
Schaffer's comments Wednesday nonetheless represented the latest sign Paxton's legal troubles are growing serious. The attorney general has hired a high-powered Dallas attorney, Joe Kendall, to represent him as a Collin County grand jury prepares to meet. Schaffer has suggested he and Brian will start presenting evidence to the grand jury by the end of July.