After the Texas Senate acquitted Attorney General Ken Paxton of 16 impeachment charges, four of his former top staffers said they would resume their legal fight against their former boss in “a real court.”

In their first public comments since the verdict, former Deputy Attorneys General Blake Brickman, Mark Penley and Ryan Vassar told reporters Sept. 25 they would “fight for justice in this case, as long as it takes.”

The background

The three men are among a group of seven whistleblowers who reported Paxton to the FBI in 2020, accusing him of abusing his office to benefit a donor and accepting bribes.

Brickman, Penley and Vassar later sued the attorney general’s office, arguing they were wrongfully terminated in retaliation for their report. David Maxwell is also part of the lawsuit, although he was unable to attend the press conference.

Paxton and the four whistleblowers reached a $3.3 million settlement in February, but the Texas Legislature declined to fund it during this year’s regular session.

As a result, the whistleblowers said the Texas Supreme Court should reopen their case and allow for a trial in a Travis County district court.

“After seven months and after the positions taken at the impeachment trial, there is no reason to believe a final settlement agreement is achievable at this point,” they said in a Sept. 25 court filing.

What you need to know

In a district court, Paxton would be required to testify or plead the Fifth Amendment, Brickman said. The third-term attorney general did not testify in front of the Senate and was not present for most of the trial.

Paxton’s wife, McKinney Sen. Angela Paxton; his friend and campaign donor Nate Paul; and others intertwined in the case would also be called to testify, the whistleblowers said.

“The political trial is over, and it’s time for the case to return to a real court,” Brickman said.

Penley told reporters a jury should decide if Paxton violated the Texas Whistleblower Act, which protects public employees from being fired for reporting their employers’ violations of the law to authorities.

“What we want is justice,” Penley said. “And we want the people of Texas to have an attorney general that acts with integrity and good public policy.”

During the Senate trial, Paxton’s lawyers pressed the whistleblowers about why they did not tell Paxton they were going to the FBI and made the report without documentary evidence. The former staffers testified they went to authorities “in a hurry” and were concerned the office was being “hijacked” to serve Paul.

“We had eyewitness testimony. We had personal knowledge. That's admissible evidence in any court in Texas,” Penley said at the press conference. “We took that to the FBI. We did our duty, and we've been waiting three years for justice.”

A spokesperson for the attorney general’s office did not respond to a request for comment.