AUSTIN (KXAN) – Citing mountains of documents to process, a federal judge and attorneys in the case of indicted real estate developer Nate Paul have agreed to push a trial date one year, to July 29, 2024, to provide sufficient time to prepare and analyze records, according to a hearing Thursday at Austin’s federal district courthouse.
Paul, a 36-year-old linked to accusations against impeached Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, was charged in June with 8 counts of making false statements and reports to lenders. He is accused of exaggerating his assets, undervaluing his liabilities and providing false records to obtain more than $172 million in loans for his businesses in 2017 and 2018.
Paul did not attend the hearing, but his attorney E.G. Morris was present, and his attorney David Gerger participated telephonically.
Paul pleaded not guilty to all counts in mid-June, and his trial was originally scheduled for August 14.
Attorneys for both Paul and the government agreed that an August trial date, and other scheduled deadlines preceding it, would be too soon given the complexity of the case. The discovery materials include “the fruits of over 100 grand jury subpoenas” and “5 terabytes of data (many millions of pages)” from computers seized by the government, according to a motion for continuance filed by Paul’s attorneys.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Alan Buie, a prosecutor, said case materials were “accumulated over basically a five-year investigation.” Processing such “extremely voluminous” discovery materials involves time consuming database work and automation, he said.
Buie told U.S. Magistrate Judge Dustin Howell both sides are “working as collaboratively as possible” on exchanging discovery materials and the process has been “amicable” so far.
Howell is the magistrate judge assigned to the case and will handle most, if not all, pretrial matters. Senior U.S. District Judge David Ezra is also overseeing the case.
Howell asked both parties about how long they expected a trial would last.
Buie said the government planned to put on about a dozen witnesses at trial. With the amount of time it would take to put on those witnesses, with objections and cross examinations, he estimated it would take roughly 30 hours for the government to present its case alone. That means the government would rest, potentially, early in the second week of a trial, he said.
“Looking at a trial, you wouldn’t want to bet on it getting done in less than two weeks,” Buie said at the hearing.
Gerger said he estimated a trial would take two to three weeks.
Morris said it was too early for the defense to estimate how many witnesses they would bring. He also said the defense’s process has been slowed somewhat by a protective order in the case that stops Paul from being able to take case material home to review, among other restrictions intended to protect discovery material from release.
The eight felony counts against Paul are punishable by up to 30 years in prison each and a fine of up to $1 million, if convicted. Investigators say Paul lied on loan applications and provided misleading information to multiple lenders to obtain six loans valued from $2.73 to $64 million. The loans were for business investments and properties that were part of a vast real estate empire Paul has grown under the company World Class Holdings.
On its website, World Class boasts of being “one of the largest private real estate owners in the United States” and “the largest private real estate owner” in Austin. Over the years, World Class amassed many high-value properties in and around Austin, including 3M’s sprawling campus near Lake Travis and multiple prime lots downtown.
But the enterprise has also struggled since the pandemic with multiple bankruptcies of subsidiary companies.
When Paul needed help, investigators for the Texas House General Investigating Committee say he got it from Paxton, who was impeached by the House in late May. The 20 articles of impeachment against Paxton include several centered on assistance he allegedly provided to Paul. Paxton is accused of “disregard of official duty” and “constitutional bribery” for providing favorable legal assistance to Paul, who employed a mistress of Paxton’s and provided renovations to Paxton’s Austin home, according to the articles of impeachment.
A House investigation found Paxton abused his authority by preparing a legal opinion that would help Paul avoid foreclosures, by intervening to help Paul in a civil case against a charitable foundation and by improperly obtaining access to information that was not publicly disclosed to help Paul.
Paxton’s impeachment trial in the Senate is scheduled for September. Paxton has denied any wrongdoing and denounced the impeachment process.