Texas AG: Brown Co. Attorney's program doesn't operate within law

Photo credit: Center for Life Resources

BROWNWOOD, Texas - Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued his opinion Monday about a program at the Brown County Attorney's Office that allowed defendants to pay a donation in exchange for a lesser charge, or even a dismissal.

Brown County Auditor Jennifer Robison submitted a letter to Ken Paxton in June asking for an opinion about several practices in Shane Britton's office, including his pre-trial diversion program.

Paxton ruled Monday that Britton didn't operate within the law.

"The media, in general, and a large portion of the community just turned a blind eye to this, and they just can't turn a blind eye to this anymore," Joe Cooksey said Thursday.

In 2009, he questioned the legality of the program to county commissioners at their meeting. In a conversation he recorded and made available to KTXS, Cooksey asked commissioners to investigate it to no avail.

"Everything that the attorney general said in this newly released opinion about this pre-trial diversion program, I said the same exact thing," Cooksey said. "The reaction was no reaction."

The opinion stated, "The payment of money by an accused in exchange for a prosecuting attorney's favorable treatment in a criminal matter involving the accused can in some circumstances constitute a violation of … the penal code."

Paxton references a section of the code about bribery.

Former Brown County Chief Deputy Bobby Duvall said Thursday, "There's a statewide impact because I think a lot of prosecutors all over the state had heard about this and are saying, 'My goodness, what are those guys doing?'"

Duvall and the late sheriff Bobby Grubbs helped start a criminal investigation into Britton's office on allegations of missing money in 2014.

"It was not a misunderstanding of the law," Duvall said. "We were confident that we had an outright scheme to defraud the public."

KTXS reached out to several Brown County officials, including County Judge Ray West, Britton, and county commissioners for comment. But, they either didn't respond or declined to go on camera.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in the Northern District of Texas is currently reviewing Britton's case to determine if there was any criminal wrong doing.