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Paxton Gets a Slap on the Wrist

It is fortunate that justice is blind in America, and that a well-heeled, highly connected white man will always be treated exactly the same as, say, a Black man living in poverty.

Oh, wait. It would seem we spoke too soon. Texas AG Ken Paxton (R), who recently survived an impeachment effort, has been dragging out a securities fraud indictment filed against him for the last 9 years. He has used every trick in the book to avoid facing the music, with his bag of tricks greatly expanded by virtue of his official position and his well-to-do friends.

He was scheduled to finally go on trial in 3 weeks but, as of yesterday, it appears he has permanently dodged this particular bullet. Prosecutors announced that they had reached a plea-deal agreement with Paxton, such that the three felony counts against him will be dismissed in exchange for his paying a $300,000 fine, doing 100 hours of community service and undergoing 15 hours of legal ethics education. Since Paxton most certainly has people who will cover that fine for him, his punishment is essentially 5 days' worth of his time. That's rather less than life in prison, which was the maximum penalty he faced if the matter had gone to trial.

Nobody seems to know exactly what happened here, which leaves us to guess. It's possible that Paxton got a sweetheart deal from friendly folks in the Houston DA's office. Or, it could be that people don't usually go to prison for first-time offenses, and so prosecutors were OK with a non-incarceration punishment. But if you made us bet, we would bet that with 9 years having elapsed, and potential witnesses having died or having had their memories fade, what would have been a slam-dunk prosecution became much more tenuous. If so, then Paxton's foot-dragging machinations paid off in spades. Undoubtedly, Donald Trump is taking notes. Probably in crayon, but still.

A judge still has to sign off on the deal, and sometimes that doesn't happen (see Biden, Hunter). And Paxton is still facing a federal investigation related to the same bad acts. But at the moment, it sure looks like he fought the law, and he won. (Z)

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