Houston/ Politics & Govt
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Published on May 14, 2024
AG Paxton's Office Requires More Time to Review Evidence in Harris County Bid-Rigging CaseSource: Google Street View

The legal drama surrounding three former staffers of Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo continues to unfold, with a trial seemingly pushed into the next year. These staffers stand accused of manipulating the bid process for a lucrative COVID-19 outreach contract. As the Houston Chronicle reports, the case has been taken over by AG Ken Paxton’s office after District Attorney Kim Ogg's decision to transfer the case, citing a potential conflict of interest if left to her successor, with Ogg on her way out after an electoral defeat.

With the handover of this politically sensitive case to the Attorney General's office, Paxton's legal team admitted they required additional time to sift through the copious amounts of evidence amassed. According to a report by KHOU, during a recent court hearing, an attorney from Paxton’s office said, "We just got on the case, we need to catch up to speed." The previously anticipated November trial date has now been deemed too optimistic, with an expectant push into 2024. Ogg's decision to relinquish control of the case came after her loss and in the face of accusations of political motivations—accusations fueled by Hidalgo's endorsement of Ogg’s opponent.

At the heart of the allegations are claims that the trio, including former chief of staff Alex Triantaphyllis, policy director Wallis Nader, and policy aide Aaron Dunn, sent an $11 million contract to Elevate Strategies, a small firm allegedly without the required healthcare background. In a statement obtained by the Houston Chronicle, a prosecutor from Paxton’s office, Britni Cooper, asked for more time to review "several terabytes of evidence." Derek Hollingsworth, representing Dunn, in response to the immense volume of documents, expressed a long-standing complaint, "I’ve been complaining about that for a while," he stated while suggesting that the charges against his client are ridiculous.

As the trial waits in limbo, the defense has requested access to transcripts from the grand jury that leveled the charges of misuse of official information and tampering with government documents against the accused, the Houston Chronicle reports. While preparations continue, Judge Hazel Jones has urged lawyers to be considerate of the court’s schedule. "I don’t really want you here unless there’s something for me to do," said Judge Jones, indicating the desire for efficiency as future legal proceedings loom.

The transition of jurisdiction to Paxton's office brings new dynamics into play, with criminal convictions or dismissals hinging upon the meticulous review and interpretation of the data dump received from Ogg's team. This process, as seen through Hollingsworth's lens, speaks to a narrative of overreach and inflated accusations. In a statement obtained by KHOU, he conveys confidence in his client's innocence: “We're just ready at some point to have our day in court or to have somebody finally realize that the evidence and the charges against Dr. Dunn are ridiculous and to let them go.” Despite the legal entanglements and delays, the undercurrent of political intrigue continues to simmer as the narrative unfolds.