AUSTIN – Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick issued the following statement today:
“Last Friday, House Manager lawyer Erin Epley weighed in on the issue of Laura Olson not testifying. I have previously said Erin Epley proposed the agreed-upon language explaining why Olson was not testifying; Ms. Epley proposed the language, “Ms. Olson has been present but has been deemed unavailable for testimony.” Epley does not deny this in her latest comment.
“The Texas Tribune says, “Patrick told her [Epley] he was going to rule against them, so an agreement was the next best solution.” Taylor Goldenstein of the Houston Chronicle quotes Rusty Hardin, “She’s [Epley is] being kind of gentle in her response. But in reality, the agreement only occurred after he [Patrick] had said, ‘I’m going to rule against you. You’re not going to be able to call Olson.'” Mr. Hardin is incorrect. Those words are not in the transcript. My comments to Ms. Epley on how I was thinking of ruling on the motion came only after she offered her proposed language and solution, and Paxton’s attorneys accepted it.
“I knew Ms. Epley did not offer her proposed language and solution in response to me saying I would rule against them. Before reading the transcript, I recalled it was in response to me asking both sides if they could come to some agreement. The transcript clarifies that Ms. Epley offered her proposed language in response to Laura Olson’s attorney, Ms. Stillinger.
“During the discussion, Ms. Stillinger cited case law stating, “it is error for the state to call any witness who it knows will claim his or her 5th Amendment privilege.” Further, “it is impermissibly prejudicial for the government to attempt to influence the jury by calling a witness it knows will invoke the 5th Amendment.”
“Ms. Epley immediately responded to Ms. Stillinger, acknowledging she was correct. It was at that moment that Ms. Epley said, “Can I pose – – I hope my team is not upset by this – – a possible solution. It isn’t our fault either that she’s unable to testify. Could a statement be made to the Senate body that Ms. Olson has been present but will be unavailable for testimony?”
“Upon hearing Ms. Epley’s proposed statement, Paxton team lawyer Dan Cogdell said,” I’m fine with that.” Paxton attorney Tony Buzbee said, “That’s the statement?” and looked at me while nodding yes.
“At that point, it was done. Ms. Epley made an offer with very specific language, and both Paxton lead attorneys agreed. Mr. Hardin didn’t object, nor did any of the other House attorneys in the room.
“Once Ms. Stillinger laid out case law, I believed Ms. Epley was looking for something her side could say so it didn’t look like they had not tried to call Olson as a witness. Later in the transcript, Ms. Hollingsworth, a lawyer for the House, confirmed my line of thinking by saying almost those exact words.
“After Paxton’s lawyers agreed with Ms. Epley that both parties would say, “Ms. Olson has been present but has been deemed unavailable for testimony,” another House lawyer, Ms. Graham, interjected and tried to change the agreed-to statement. Paxton’s team did not agree with Ms. Graham’s added language.
“Then Ms. Epley wanted to take it back. In the transcript, Epley says, “Well, I’m not the legal – – so can we backpedal what I said.” That is improper in any negotiation. I said, “No.”
“It was then, and only then, after the Paxton team had accepted her solution and the very specific language she suggested, that I indicated to Ms. Epley how I was leaning on ruling on the motion.
“This is the last I have to say on this issue. The record is clear. Ms. Epley did not offer her solution and language in response to me telling her how I was going to rule. The transcript clearly shows she was responding to Ms. Stillinger, who cited the law. Since the end of the trial, I have said the attorneys for both sides conducted themselves well and were very respectful to me. However, in this instance, as the transcript proves, Ms. Epley and Mr. Hardin are simply misremembering.
“For those unaware, this issue was not about forcing Ms. Olson to testify. Neither the House, the Paxton team, nor I could force her to testify. She had already claimed her 5th Amendment right not to testify. The only question was whether Ms. Olson would be required to say so publicly and repeatedly on the stand. Ultimately, both parties agreed I should read the agreed-to statement the House managers drafted in open court.
“I am enclosing the key pages of the transcript from the meeting that address this issue. The entire trial transcript will be released to the public when the court reporter’s work is completed.”
Read the trial transcripts here.