Eversole Pleads Not Guilty

Federal Judge Nancy Johnson's courtroom was mostly occupied by members of the media. Most were surprised when Harris County Commissioner Jerry Eversole entered the courtroom wearing handcuffs and leg shackles over a
blue blazer, gray slacks and loafers. He listened intently to his attorney Rusty Hardin, as they waited for the formal arraingment.

Eversole was charged with accepting a bribe from Houston developer and former Harris County facilities director Mike Surface. He was also indicted on one count of conspiracy and two counts of filing false statements on his income taxes. Surface, a longtime friend of Eversole, was charged with one count of conspiracy and one count of paying a bribe. Both Eversole and Surface pleaded not guilty to the charges, and were freed on 100-thousand dollars bond.

Rusty Hardin, Jerry Eversole’s attorney
Rusty Hardin, Jerry Eversole's attorney

Outside the court house, Hardin told reporters it was a sad day for his client, but one they knew was coming. He said the indictment makes it seem like Eversole was a major player in the things he is accused of.

"What evidence will show is, that Jerry Eversole was one of five commissioners who voted on these things that after they were proposed by staff that had nothing to do with Jerry Eversole, or the others. Jerry Eversole doesn't run Commissioner's court. Jerry Eversole is one of five commissioners who voted on these matters, and at the end of the day, you will find there was nothing wrong with any of it."

Hardin says Eversole, who's been commissioner since 1991, will not step down.

"Three different other governmental agencies have declined to get involved in this matter after looking. The previous district attorney, the current district attorney, and the county attorney have concluded that there's not a basis for removal, and Jerry Eversole will remain as a county commissioner from now on. Until the voters have another say four years from now."

Harris County Judge released a statement that said, quote, "Today's indictment 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," unquote.

Eversole is the first Harris County Commissioner to be indicted since Bob Eckels in 1987. If convicted, Eversole could get up to ten years in prison on the bribery charge, a maximum five year prison sentence on the conspiracy charge, and up to three years on each of the income tax charges. His next court appearance is in February.

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