Healthcare

Man on the Run: AG Ken Paxton Fled When Served Subpoena in Abortion Lawsuit

The subpoenas were served to Attorney General Ken Paxton at his McKinney home on Monday.
The subpoenas were served to Attorney General Ken Paxton at his McKinney home on Monday. Gabriel Aponte/Getty Images
Ernesto Martin Herrera walked up to Attorney General Ken Paxton’s door on Monday morning with subpoenas in hand. When a woman answered the door, Herrera told her he had important legal documents for the attorney general, according to a federal affidavit obtained by The Texas Tribune.

Paxton couldn’t come to the door, the woman told Herrera, because he was on the phone and in a hurry to leave. The woman identified herself as Angela. Paxton’s wife is state Senator Angela Paxton.

Herrera gave the woman his card, sat in his car and waited at the Paxton residence for about an hour. That’s around the time a car rolled up to the house and pulled into the garage. Out of the vehicle stepped Ken Paxton.

“I walked up the driveway approaching Mr. Paxton and called him by his name,” Herrera said in the affidavit. “As soon as he saw me and heard me call his name out, he turned around and RAN back inside the house through the same door in the garage.”

The attorney general’s wife later hopped in and started the vehicle. A few minutes passed before Ken Paxton ran from the home and darted toward the car. Herrera wrote in his affidavit that Ken Paxton was trying to avoid him, even as he yelled the attorney general’s name and said he had legal documents to serve him.

When Herrera figured Paxton wasn’t going to stop to take the documents, he yelled to him again, saying he was being served and left the papers on the ground.

“As soon as he saw me and heard me call his name out, he turned around and RAN back inside the house through the same door in the garage.” – Ernesto Martin Herrera, process server

tweet this
Paxton has been under indictment for seven years for securities fraud and is facing a whistleblower lawsuit accusing him of abuse of office. But the documents left outside of the attorney general’s home were related to another matter. They’re part of a lawsuit filed against the state by nonprofits wanting to help Texans pay for abortions where they are legal. The subpoena was for a federal court hearing on Tuesday.

Fund Texas Choice, the North Texas Equal Access Fund and several other groups are behind the federal lawsuit. In their suit, the groups are asking the court to keep the attorney general and prosecutors from enforcing House Bill 1280 “in a manner that violates Plaintiffs’ rights to freely travel, freely associate, freely speak, and freely support members of their communities through financial assistance, as guaranteed by the United States Constitution and federal law.”

Under HB 1280, it’s a second-degree felony to be “a person who knowingly performs, induces, or attempts an abortion.” This can be increased to a first-degree infraction “if the unborn child dies as a result of the offense.”

The groups want to be legally protected to raise money and help people get abortions out of state.

The same day he was served, Paxton tried to have the affidavit sealed, arguing in a court filing that Herrera “loitered at the Attorney General’s home for over an hour, repeatedly shouted at him, and accosted” him and his wife. U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman allowed the affidavit to be sealed, but that was hours after it was published, according to The Texas Tribune.

Since news of the affidavit broke, Paxton has taken to Twitter to defend himself, saying Herrera is lucky he didn’t use force.

He first responded on Twitter to The Texas Tribune’s report on the affidavit.

“This is a ridiculous waste of time and the media should be ashamed of themselves,” Paxton wrote. “All across the country, conservatives have faced threats to their safety — many threats that received scant coverage or condemnation from the mainstream media.”

He added, “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.”

A Texas judge would later rule on Tuesday that Paxton didn’t have to show up for the hearing as part of the abortion funds’ lawsuit. After the judge’s decision, the attorney general put out another statement about the ordeal. 

“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.” – Attorney General Ken Paxton

tweet this
In his statement, Paxton called the controversy a “shameless stunt” by his political opponents.

“Here are the facts: a strange man came onto my property at home, yelled unintelligibly, and charged toward me,” Paxton said in his statement. “I perceived this person to be a threat because he was neither honest nor upfront about his intentions.”

He said people have been incarcerated for previous threats against him. “I take a number of common sense precautions for me and my family’s safety when I’m at home,” Paxton said. “Texans do the same to protect themselves from threats, and many also exercise their Second Amendment rights to protect themselves and their families.”

He added, “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 is up for reelection in November. After defeating George P. Bush in a Republican primary runoff, he will face his Democratic opponent for the seat, Rochelle Garza. In a Twitter post about the affidavit, Garza wrote, “Ken Paxton is running from the law. I’m running to replace him.”
KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Jacob Vaughn, a former Brookhaven College journalism student, has written for the Observer since 2018, first as clubs editor. More recently, he's been in the news section as a staff writer covering City Hall, the Dallas Police Department and whatever else editors throw his way.
Contact: Jacob Vaughn

Latest Stories