Eversole's day: Harris Co. budget vote, then trial in federal court
Harris County Commissioner Jerry Eversole is expected to vote Tuesday on how the county will spend its $1.2 billion budget. Afterward, he will listen to opening arguments from federal prosecutors alleging several of his past votes were swayed by bribes from real estate developer and friend Michael Surface.
Elected to a sixth term in November, the Precinct 4 commissioner has maintained his innocence since allegations of corruption emerged more than two years ago.
The commission has pressed hard, even against the advice of his attorneys, to go to trial less than three months after being indicted in December.
Eversole, and his attorney Rusty Hardin, declined to comment on jury selection Monday.
Prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney's Office handling the case also declined to talk.
Eversole, 67, is accused of taking nearly $100,000 in cash and gifts from Surface. Prosecutors are alleging that Eversole worked to funnel millions in county contracts to companies in which Surface had an interest in exchange for the gifts. Eversole also faces two counts of filing false income tax statements.
Four- to six-week trial
Surface also was indicted in December and is expected to go to trial in October, his attorney Chip Lewis said. Lewis has said prosecutors are "criminalizing" a 30-year friendship.
Seven men and seven women were selected Monday for the four- to six-week trial. U.S. District Judge David Hittner said the two alternates would be picked out of a hat after closing arguments.
If convicted, the judge could sentence Eversole to a maximum of 21 years in prison and $700,000 in fines.
During jury selection, Hittner read a who's who list of county government officials who may appear as witnesses including Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, former county Judge Robert Eckels and Precinct 1 Commissioner El Franco Lee.
Hittner said some possible witnesses would not appear.
Astros owner Drayton McLane and Texans owner Bob McNair also were on the possible witness list. Prosecutors allege Eversole worked to see Surface appointed as chairman of the Harris County Sports & Convention Corporation, the board that runs Reliant Park. Surface also served as director of the county's facilities and maintenance department.
Surface benefited, the indictments charge, from Eversole's votes in favor of multimillion-dollar contracts to provide the county with office space for various departments, a maintenance camp and toll road engineering inspection services.
Eversole, along with the four other commissioners, are expected to consider and approve the budget Tuesday.