‘A poor imitation of the judicial system’: Prosecutor Dick DeGuerin reflects on Paxton acquittal

AUSTIN — Last month, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton was acquitted on all 16 articles of impeachment he faced in a historic Senate trial. Facing accusations including bribery, disregard of official duty and misapplication of public resources, the embattled official ultimately escaped the proceedings unscathed.

Dick DeGuerin, the part-time Marfan and famed defense attorney who had been tapped to lead the prosecution along with Rusty Hardin, said the outcome was disheartening, but ultimately not surprising. 

“I realize now, I should have realized then, that the fix was in from the very beginning,” said DeGuerin.

In May, the Texas House voted overwhelmingly to impeach Paxton, adopting 20 articles of impeachment spanning allegations of bribery, abuse of office and retaliation against whistleblowers. The Texas Senate ultimately chose to hear evidence on 16 of those articles. 

In September, the Senate voted to acquit Paxton of all 16 articles. The Texas Senate is composed of 31 state senators, 19 of which are Republican. Only two Republican senators — Bob Nichols and Kelly Hancock — voted for any of the articles of impeachment. 

DeGuerin said he knew the trial was over when the votes for the first article — disregard of official duty, concerning Paxton’s intervention in a lawsuit against real estate investor Nate Paul — came down. The vote was 14 to 16, with only two Republicans voting to convict.

“I believe in the judicial system, but this was a poor imitation of the judicial system,” said DeGuerin. “We had jurors, the senators, that we did not select, who had political agendas –– saving their own political futures.”

DeGuerin pointed to the $3 million donation Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick had received from a PAC lobbying for Paxton’s acquittal. “In my entire career, I’ve never seen or heard of a case where the judge in a contested case took a donation from one side, $3 million,” he said. “It didn’t come directly from Paxton, but it came from his backers.”

Paxton, following the acquittal, released a statement calling the proceedings a “sham impeachment coordinated by the Biden Administration with liberal House Speaker Dade Phelan and his kangaroo court.”

Though Paxton was acquitted in the impeachment trial, a whistleblower lawsuit brought by former senior staffers will move forward in a Travis County trial court. The Texas Supreme Court last week tossed Paxton’s request to have the case dismissed.