Texas AG Ken Paxton fled home with his wife to avoid subpoena in abortion case, court filing says
Paxton was subpoenaed to testify in a civil lawsuit from Texas-based nonprofits that want to resume helping pregnant residents obtain out-of-state abortions.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton leaves the U.S. Supreme Court following arguments over a challenge to a Texas law that bans abortion after six weeks in Washington, U.S., November 1, 2021.
Evelyn Hockstein | Reuters
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton fled his home to avoid being served a subpoena Monday in a federal lawsuit filed by groups seeking to help Texans receive out-of-state abortions, court filings show.
Paxton ran from the garage of his home in McKinney, Texas, into a truck driven by his wife, state Sen. Angela Paxton, while refusing to accept the documents from a process server, according to an affidavit filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Austin.
The Paxtons drove away without taking the documents, which were left on the ground by the house, process server Ernesto Martin Herrera wrote in the sworn affidavit.
Federal Judge Robert Pitman granted a motion Tuesday to quash the subpoena for Paxton's testimony. Paxton had argued the subpoena was unwarranted because "none of the requisites for making, let alone enforcing, such a demand have been satisfied."
In a statement later Tuesday, Paxton accused the server of posing a threat by charging at him and yelling "unintelligibly."
The AG also said that Herrera is "lucky this situation did not escalate further or necessitate force," after noting that many Texans keep guns for protection.
The subpoena had ordered Paxton, a Republican, to testify in a hearing Tuesday morning in a civil lawsuit in which multiple Texas-based nonprofits want to resume helping pregnant residents obtain abortions in other states. That includes paying for out-of-state abortion providers and providing financial aid to those seeking abortions, as well as providing interstate travel to those providers.
The nonprofits say their abortion-assisting activities had ceased shortly before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which had enshrined the federal right to abortion for decades, in a 5-4 vote in June. The high court's ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization also threw out another case, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which had largely upheld the right to an abortion established by Roe.
Paxton in a pair of tweets late Monday night claimed he was showing concern for his family and attacked the media for reporting on the affidavit, without denying the substance of the document.
"This is a ridiculous waste of time and the media should be ashamed of themselves," Paxton tweeted in response to a Texas Tribune article.
"All across the country, conservatives have faced threats to their safety — many threats that received scant coverage or condemnation from the mainstream media," his tweet said.
"It's clear that the media wants to drum up another controversy involving my work as Attorney General, so they're attacking me for having the audacity to avoid a stranger lingering outside my home and showing concern about the safety and well-being of my family," he said in a second tweet.
Herrera's affidavit said that he arrived at Paxton's house Monday at 8:28 a.m. and was greeted at the front door by a woman who identified herself as Angela. When he told her that he was trying to deliver the subpoenas to Ken Paxton, she told him that the AG was on the phone.
Herrera, who said he recognized Ken Paxton inside the house through glass on the door, offered to wait for him. Angela replied that Paxton "was in a hurry to leave," according to Herrera, who observed a black Chevy truck in the driveway and then saw another car arrive there.
At about 9:40 a.m., Herrera said he saw Paxton exiting his garage. Herrera walked up the driveway toward Paxton and called out his name, at which point "he turned around and RAN back inside the house through the same door in the garage."
Minutes later, Angela came out to the truck and opened both the driver-side door and the door behind it, Herrera wrote. A few minutes after she started the truck, "I saw Mr. Paxton RAN from the door inside the garage towards the rear door behind the driver side," Herrera wrote.
"I approached the truck, and loudly called him by his name and stated that I had court documents for him. Mr. Paxton ignored me and kept heading for the truck. After determining that Mr. Paxton was not going to take the Subpoenas from my hand, I stated that I was serving him with legal documents and was leaving them on the ground where he could get them," Herrera wrote.
"I then placed the documents on the ground beside the truck. Service was completed at 9:50 am. He got in the truck leaving the documents on the ground, and then both vehicles left," he wrote.
Paxton's statement Tuesday decried the episode surrounding the subpoena as a "made-up controversy" and a "shameless stunt from my political opponents—a stunt that a federal judge dismissed today by quashing the subpoena."
"Here are the facts: a strange man came onto my property at home, yelled unintelligibly, and charged toward me. I perceived this person to be a threat because he was neither honest nor upfront about his intentions," Paxton's statement said.
The AG said he takes multiple safety precautions at home "in light of the constant threats against me." He noted that many others in Texas "also exercise their Second Amendment rights to protect themselves and their families."
"Given that this suspicious and erratic man charged me on my private property, he is lucky this situation did not escalate further or necessitate force," Paxton said. "As leaders across America, from elected officials to Supreme Court Justices, face unprecedent threats of politically motivated violence, I believe this type of behavior utilized by radical activists is thoroughly disgusting and should be met with swift condemnation—not championed in the media."
In July, Paxton sued the Biden administration over guidance from the Department of Health and Human Services that hospitals and doctors must perform abortions in emergency situations.
Paxton, who was elected attorney general in 2014 and reelected in 2018, has been under indictment on securities fraud charges for seven years, though the case has not gone to trial. He won his Republican primary in May, defeating GOP challenger George P. Bush in a runoff.