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Texas AG Ken Paxton ducked subpoena with help from wife – The Dallas Morning News

AUSTIN — Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton ran out of his house and jumped into a truck driven by his wife, a state senator, to avoid being served a subpoena to testify Tuesday in an abortion access case, according to court documents.

A process server wrote in an affidavit that he was attempting to deliver the federal court subpoena Monday at Paxton’s home and ultimately had to leave the document on the ground. He said the Republican avoided him for more than an hour from inside his house then dashed toward the truck and the couple drove off.

Paxton, who is facing a variety of legal troubles as he seeks to win a third term in November, said he avoided the server out of safety concerns and said the news media should be ashamed for reporting on what happened.

“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,” Paxton said Monday night in a tweet.

On Tuesday, a judge hearing the lawsuit by nonprofit groups that want to help Texans pay for abortions out of state granted Paxton’s request to quash the subpoena. The attorney general wrote in court documents that he and his wife were “accosted” by the process server and the judge also granted Paxton’s request to seal the affidavit, which had been publicly accessible for hours.

Ernesto Martin Herrera said in the affidavit that he arrived at Paxton’s home in the Dallas suburb of McKinney on Monday morning and knocked on the front door, which had a window in it. Paxton initially could be seen approaching the door but then turned back, according to the affidavit. Republican Sen. Angela Paxton opened the door, telling the process server her husband was on the phone, according to the court document, which was first reported by The Texas Tribune.

“A few minutes later I saw Mr. Paxton RAN (sic) from the door inside the garage towards the rear door behind the driver side,” Herrera wrote, adding that Paxton ignored his calls that he was there to serve the attorney general legal documents. Herrera said he left the subpoena on the ground beside the truck but that the couple drove off without taking it.

On Tuesday, Paxton said in a statement on Twitter that he fled his home because “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.”

The attorney general added that the process server is “lucky this situation did not escalate further or necessitate force.”

Paxton did not appear at the federal court hearing in Austin on Tuesday. An attorney for the abortion funds told U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman there were multiple attempts to serve the subpoena to Paxton’s office but that his counsel refused to accept service.

The eight funds filed suit last month seeking protections to resume financing travel to states where the procedure is still legal. Fund leaders testified Tuesday that they paused their work funding flights, hotels and other expenses after the reversal of Roe vs. Wade, which triggered a near total abortion ban in Texas and threats of criminal prosecution from Paxton and other elected leaders.

“We’ve seen fear on all levels of the organization,” said Anna Rupani, executive director of Fund Texas Choice, who warned it could be “catastrophic” if the abortion fund cannot resume its primary work.

The North Texas Equal Access Fund and the Dallas-based Afiya Center both signed on to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit contends enforcing anti-abortion restrictions against the funds violates the rights to free speech and travel across state lines and asks the judge to stop officials from prosecuting their staff, donors or volunteers for their role in any abortions that occur outside the state.

Lawyers from the attorney general’s office emphasized Paxton doesn’t have the power to launch criminal prosecutions. Under the state’s anti-abortion ban, Paxton can impose a minimum fine of $100,000 per abortion and local prosecutors can seek penalties of up to life in prison. Paxton has promised aggressive enforcement.

The Guttmacher Institute, which promotes reproductive health and rights, estimates the average drive for someone from North Texas to have the procedure is 250 miles one way. The burden falls hardest on communities of color, rural Texans and low-income women, who experts said already face the biggest obstacles in accessing abortion.

Paxton was indicted in 2015 on state securities fraud charges but has yet to face trial amid long delays over where the felony case should be heard and payment for the special prosecutors. The FBI is investigating Paxton over allegations of corruption that eight of Paxton’s own deputies leveled at him two years ago. The Texas state bar has also brought a lawsuit seeking to discipline Paxton for allegedly misleading the U.S. Supreme Court in his suit seeking to challenge Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election.

Paxton has broadly denied wrongdoing and remained popular among GOP voters. He faces Democratic challenger Rochelle Garza, a first-time candidate and former ACLU attorney, in the November election.

“Texans deserve an AG who will uphold the law, not run from it,” Garza wrote on Twitter Tuesday.

Assistant politics editor John Gravois and Austin bureau correspondent Allie Morris contributed to this report, which contains material from The Associated Press.