Special prosecutors in Paxton felony case point to Tim Dunn's political operation as tainting jury pool
The special prosecutors in the felony fraud case of Attorney General Ken Paxton’s alleged swindling of investors have now pointed the finger directly at the political network of Midland oilman Tim Dunn for trying to taint the jury pool in Collin County.
Empower Texans, Watchdog.org, and former KTRK Channel 13 in Houston Reporter Wayne Dolcefino are all accused by prosecutors of working on Dunn and Paxton’s behalf as part of “Team Paxton” to smear the victims in the case, including Texas House State Affairs Committee Chairman Byron Cook, R-Corsicana.
Rep. Cook and another man, Joel Hochberg, say Paxton convinced them to invest in a company without disclosing that he received a commission for doing it. Paxton faces first-degree felony charges for securities fraud. He has denied doing anything wrong in either the criminal case in Collin County or a similar civil case in federal court. The case, of course, deals with Paxton’s alleged conduct as a private citizen.
In arguing for a change of venue, special prosecutors Brian Wice, Kent Schaffer and Nicole DeBorde said a group they called “Team Paxton” – made up of several groups and individuals – has engaged in an “almost two-year long crusade to taint the pool of prospective Collin County jurors.”
As part of all this, Dunn, who prosecutors called Paxton’s “financial angel,” is personally accused of trying to taint the jury pool by promoting a Watchdog.org blog post by Jon Cassidy that contained “highly sensitive, restricted, and confidential material.”
“Its ploy of tainting the pool of prospective jurors also extends to Wayne Dolcefino, one of its now cashiered ‘investigators’ engaging in manifestly bad-faith conduct constituting contempt of court by illegally leaking the confidential work product of the Texas Rangers in violation of the Michael Morton Act and this Court’s order that discovery in these matters be governed by the Morton Act,” the prosecutors wrote.
“Tellingly, as part of Team Paxton’s mission to irreparably taint the pool of prospective Collin County jurors in advance of trial, Team Paxton financial angel Tim Dunn did not hesitate to link Cassidy’s blog post to his Facebook page on December 21, 2016,” prosecutors wrote.
“Dunn also directed the faithful to read an article by Empower Texans flack and Team Paxton publicist Tony McDonald,” the prosecutors wrote. “McDonald rails that ‘Taxpayers (i.e. potential jurors) in Collin County should be demanding that their leaders end the corrupt travesty of the criminal justice system that is the Paxton criminal prosecution.”
Prosecutors also lay out how Watchdog.org, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, “has close ties to Dunn, a Midland oilman, a noted Paxton supporter who guaranteed a million-dollar loan for him in the darkest days of his 2014 runoff election against Dan Branch for Attorney General.” Prosecutors also noted that Dunn’s Empower Texans PAC “gave Paxton a $100,000 campaign contribution” at that time.
“Watchdog.org sponsored a radio ad that aired on WBAP-AM, the highest rated radio station in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, attacking Byron Cook and Joel Hochberg, the two victims in this case, as well as the Special Prosecutors,” the prosecutors said.
It should be noted that it was in September that Paxton’s office left the Texas Ethics Commission high and dry as it sought to subpoena records from Empower Texans about its campaign finances. That put the Ethics Commission in the position of being forced to drop that particular investigation. The commission had been looking into whether Dunn’s politically active nonprofit illegally acted in concert with its donors as a political action committee, which would be required to disclose its donor list.
The case of Dunn spokesman Michael Quinn Sullivan’s alleged illegal lobbying is still in the courts. Paxton is not representing the TEC in that case.
It was after that decision by Paxton that let Empower Texans off the hook for alleged campaign finance violations that Watchdog.org ran the radio ads on Paxton’s behalf in the Metroplex.
You can see the full filing from the special prosecutors in the case against Paxton by clicking here.