State health agency worker indicted on 20 counts of child pornography

Brent Laine Saxton
Brent Laine Saxton (Hays County Sheriff's Office)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A Texas Health and Human Services Commission employee was charged with 20 counts of possession of child pornography in late May. The state agency fired Brent Laine Saxton, 31, a network IT specialist, Wednesday for policy violations, according to an agency spokesperson and court records.

The Hays County Sheriff’s Office arrested Saxton on March 20, 2015, at 1609 Centre Creek Dr. in Austin, according to an arrest report. He was not indicted until two years later on May 24, 2017, according to Hays County records. During the two year interim between his arrest and indictment, Saxton remained employed at HHSC, an agency spokesperson confirmed.

After KXAN asked HHSC about Saxton’s employment on Tuesday, an agency spokesperson said the agency “sent [Saxton] home pending the investigation.”

“After learning today of Mr. Saxton’s recent indictment, we’re initiating disciplinary action. He has 24 hours to respond or refute the HR violations, after which his employment may be terminated,” a spokesperson said Tuesday afternoon.

On Wednesday, HHSC fired Saxton for failing to notify his management of the indictment and not offering a rebuttal to a disciplinary notice, according to a decision letter.

Saxton disclosed his initial arrest to HHSC in 2015. At that time, he was reassigned from his job as a Network Specialist to the IT Help Desk “with limited access to the HHSC network,” the spokesperson said.

According to arrest warrants obtained by KXAN, detectives with the Hays County Sheriff’s Office and Texas Office of Attorney General, Law Enforcement Division, traced child pornography to the IP address in Saxton’s home in Buda. Law enforcement officials executed a search warrant on the home in February of 2015.

Saxton admitted to authorities that he received images of child sex exploitation while chatting with individuals on the internet, the warrant states. Detectives found more than 3,100 images of child pornography on a personal computer and cell phone. Many of the images included boys as young as 7 years old engaging in sex acts, according to the warrant.

Saxton was not indicted for more than two years after his arrest, according to court records. KXAN first asked the Hays County District Attorney’s Office about Saxton in early April. At that time, District Attorney Wes Mau said Saxton’s case was originally assigned to an assistant district attorney who resigned in October of 2016. All of that assistant DA’s cases, both filed and unfiled, were reassigned for review and handling by other attorneys, Mau told KXAN by email.

Less than two months after KXAN’s first inquiry into Saxton, he was indicted.

“There are a lot of cases that come into our office that I would prefer to be processed more quickly,” Mau said in a Tuesday interview. “With the growth that we’ve had in Hays County, just the number of cases that are coming in and our ability to process those and get them to grand jury, get them tried, to get those cases finalized, it is…our backlog is just growing.”

HHSC confirmed Saxton has been employed there since Aug. 1, 2014. His work involves monitoring local area networks and internet systems, performing support for Microsoft Windows, installing software and resolving PC issues, according to the agency.

Each of the 20 counts of possession of child pornography, all third-degree felonies, carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

According to HHSC policy, “disciplinary action must not be taken against an employee solely on the basis of an arrest warrant or a wanted person’ notice.” An agency commissioner or deputy commissioner may temporarily remove a person from the workplace and place them on emergency leave for up to 10 working days. After that the employee must use accrued paid leave, then the employee can be placed on leave without pay. Alternatively, the employee may be reassigned to another area until the matters related to the arrest warrant or wanted person notice are resolved.

Editors note: This story has been corrected to show Saxton was indicted on 20 counts of child pornography, not 18 as originally reported.

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