County Commissioner Jerry Eversole indicted
HOUSTON (KTRK) -- Harris County Commissioner Jerry Eversole was indicted Tuesday and he is now facing serious prison time. From conspiracy to bribery, the veteran commissioner was brought into court wearing shackles to face a litany of charges.In the indictment unsealed in federal court, Eversole was charged with conspiracy and receiving a bribe, as well as filing a false tax return in 2003 and 2004. If convicted, he faces up to 21 years in prison. Developer Michael Surface was indicted for conspiracy and giving a bribe. It's been two and a half years since Eversole himself said he expected to be indicted by the federal government on corruption charges. It's all part of what 13 Undercover has been investigating for years. Twenty three years have passed since a commissioner in Harris County has been indicted on corruption charges. Eversole is alleged to have accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal gifts from an already indicted developer named Michael Surface. "This is the federal government criminalizing a 30-year friendship," said Chip Lewis, attorney for Surface. "It's unfortunate that in times like this, we don't have better use of our federal resources."
Among the things that Surface supposedly gave Eversole are trips and antique firearms, and he is accused of helping to pay the down payment on his house, landscaping and even a custom-tailored suit.Both Eversole and Surface pleaded not guilty. We're told bond is set at $100,000 each. Harris County Judge Ed Emmett released the following statement Tuesday following the indictment:
- "Today's indictment of Commissioner Eversole presents a conflict between two very important rights - the right of Harris County residents to have full confidence in the honest operations of their county government and the right of all Americans to be presumed innocent of any criminal charges until proven guilty. Commissioner Eversole has pleaded not guilty to these charges, and I certainly hope for a speedy completion of the judicial process."
Fallout from Eversole indictmentEversole wasn't at commissioner's court Tuesday morning. His chair was empty; his voice silent. He was instead preparing to be handcuffed and led into federal court to face bribery charges. But he apparently plans to be back to the commissioner's court table very soon. When we asked Hardin if Eversole will resign, Hardin replied, "Why would you resign when you're accused of something you didn't do? The voters elected him overwhelmingly. He's there to be a commissioner and he'll continue to do the commissioner's business." With a trial set for February, there is no legal requirement for Eversole step down unless he is convicted. The county attorney's office met extensively with the feds before the indictment and they don't see any need for Eversole to step aside either. "The facts in the case appear to be ones that have already been in the news. There doesn't appear to be a smoking gun," said Terry O'Rourke with the Harris County Attorney's Office. But there are serious allegations that Eversole asked for and accepted gifts from property developer Michael Surface in order to vote Surface's way. Tuesday's indictment prompted the county Democratic chairman to call on Eversole to step down. "It's important to recapture the public trust and when individuals are charged with impropriety as it relates to their government service, they should step down until it's settled," said Harris County Democratic Chairman Gerry Birnberg. Democrats had no opponent to run against Eversole in the most recent election. Republicans say they'll go through the indictment, but see no immediate need for him to step down. Long and winding investigation It's been a long road for Commissioner Eversole. Back in 2007, our 13 Undercover investigation questioned Eversole's work habits. Our hidden cameras found him working out, shopping or just staying home when he was supposed to be on company time. It then led to a federal investigation. He paid a $75,000 ethics fine which was the largest in Texas history at the time in 2009. But it's always been an investigation involving alleged gifts from contractors. This stems from a federal investigation from 10 years ago. Surface, along with developer Andrew Schatte, was indicted in January 2008 due to their relationship and alleged gifts that Eversole received from them. They have still not come to trial. Eversole is the first Harris County commissioner to be indicted since Bob Eckels in 1987. The Harris County attorney's office is looking over the indictment as well as state law regarding removing someone from office. Eversole was released on $100,000 bond, his trial date is scheduled for February 22nd.
Stay with ABC13 Eyewitness News and abc13.com as we will continue to bring you the latest in the indictments of Jerry Eversole.
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