Jerry Eversole resigns as Harris Co. Commissioner

September 20, 2011 5:13:11 AM PDT
After more than 20 years in office, embattled Harris County Commissioner Jerry Eversole is stepping down.

Eversole has been in office for more than two decades, but now his political career is coming to an end in the wake of corruption charges which were sparked by a 13 Undercover investigation.

Eversole's connections to county vendors and possibly suspect real estate deals were first exposed by 13 Undercover in 2007. Three years later the county commissioner was indicted and earlier this year he was tried.

It looks like the resignation may be connected to a plea deal in the criminal case. New indictments today drop bribery charges against Eversole, leaving only one count of lying to the FBI remaining. A new indictment against Surface accuses him only of lying on a tax return. Both indictments are still felonies.

Eversole's charge could carry a prison sentence of up to five years, but it is rare that a defendant receives that full punishment.

"It's a good deal for Eversole. It's not a great deal for Eversole because it's still a felony," KTRK Legal Analyst Joel Androphy said.

But Androphy worries that any message the feds were trying to send about being tough of corruption may be lost.

"You're not sending a message in this case. The message you're sending is if you spend enough money to defend this and you prolong it enough, you're going to get yourself a good deal," he said.

You may remember from the last trial, the feds had alleged Eversole's close friendship with developer Michael Surface crossed legal lines and that hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of gifts from Surface were actually bribes that Eversole repaid with county contracts.

Eversole barely escaped a conviction the last time around.

"I think the guy knows exactly what he's doing," said one juror. "He skirted the law."

Back in March of this year, when Eversole was tried for conspiracy, bribery and tax fraud, 10 of 12 federal jurors voted to convict the long-time county commissioner. The two holdouts forced a mistrial and a second chance for the feds to convict Eversole.

On that day six months ago, I asked Eversole if the near-conviction would affect his job.

"I am evaluating that, Ted," he responded. "It's something to think about, though, it really is."

Today's resignation makes it clear his thinking is over. Eversole's attorney Rusty Hardin uncharacteristically refused comment this afternoon.

Eversole said for a long time he had no interest in resigning and planned to fight. But campaign records show Eversole's ability to pay for what had become a very pricy legal defense was pretty limited.

Eversole was using campaign funds, legal under Texas law, but after spending more than a million dollars on legal fees, Eversole had just $50,000 left to spend, according to his last report. The math was not in his favor.

Chip Lewis, the attorney for Eversole's friend and co-defendant Michael Surface, refused to comment this afternoon.

Eversole's resignation is effective on October 1, ending more than 20 years on that job. His replacement will be named by Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, who does not need to coordinate with either Eversole or the other members of commissioner's court.

In resigning, Eversole keeps retirement and any other benefits.
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Stories from the 13 Undercover 'Winning Hand' investigations and Commissioner Jerry Eversole


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