Jerry Eversole, developer Mike Surface enter guilty pleas

September 30, 2011 3:23:08 PM PDT
A day before he's set to step down, Harris County Precinct 4 Commissioner Jerry Eversole entered a guilty plea of lying to a federal agent. It's the result of a 13 Undercover investigation into the longtime commissioner. What a week it's been for Jerry Eversole. The day before his resignation is official on October 1, he was back in court for a re-arraignment pleading guilty and now facing possible jail time.

Eversole, the 20-year county commissioner, is now a convicted felon. We learned Friday that as part of the deal to drop bribery charges, Eversole bargained with the feds to give up his seat at commissioner's court. But he still says he never sold his vote.

All Eversole would say Friday was, "Thank you, guys."

But it's hard to believe he wasn't thinking something else inside. Eversole Friday pleaded guilty to lying to an FBI agent and could be sentenced to six months in federal prison for it. His attorney Rusty Hardin said the deal allows Eversole to maintain he never sold his vote on commissioner's court to anyone for anything.

"Not one single person testified then and not one single person would have testified if we would have had another trial that Jerry Eversole ever did anything in his office in return for anyone -- Mike Surface or anyone else," said Hardin after the re-arraignment.

Eversole instead pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI because he did lie to the FBI about gifts he received from friend and county contractor Michael Surface.

"The statute that he plead guilty to involved an interview at his home about a month before Mike Surface was later to be indicted and he was asked what things he had received of value from Mike Surface and he did not tell that agent all the things he received," Hardin said.

In court Friday, Surface admitted he gave Eversole $80,000 cash for Eversole's new home in the Heights with the intent to influence the county commissioner. Eversole didn't admit he was influenced and the feds didn't push the issue.

"The government has agreed to dismiss all counts involving any quid pro quo or bribery," said Chip Lewis, Surface's attorney.

"What's significant about today is that all the allegations by the government that he (Eversole) did anything improper in the conduct of his office were dismissed; every single count, every single allegation that had to do with the performance of his office were dismissed today and they're gone forever," Hardin said.

Pleas end court cases, but not curiosities. And we still don't know why did two longtime friends have the kind of friendship where one guy gave the other dozens of gifts worth more than $100,000 without expecting anything in return?

Hardin promises we'll get an explanation -- just not today from the now convicted felon Eversole or from his lawyer.

"I've asked Jerry not to say anything until after the sentencing. I think for him to talk and be heard from ought to wait until he's talked to the judge," Hardin said.

Surface also entered a guilty plea Friday morning. He pleaded guilty to filing a false tax statement.

Charges against both men are felonies. As part of the plea deal, Eversole will not seek public office for 10 years.

Sentencing for both Eversole and Surface will be January 4, 2012. Eversole's sentence is not to exceed three years in prison with up to one year supervised release and a fine not to exceed $100,000.

As for Surface, when he's sentenced, it will not be more than five years in prison and up to three years supervised release. His fine is not to exceed $250,000. His plea deal includes five years of no city or county contracts.

As a convicted felon, Eversole can't vote anymore or own guns -- which will be tough for both men. The two collected firearms and took vacations with each other including one where they learned to shoot on horseback.

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett has the sole responsibility of appointing a replacement for Eversole's chair. He says a variety of professional groups and individuals have been offering their opinions, including Eversole.

"I respect him a great deal because he's been commissioner for 20 years, and as I've said and has been widely reported, he needs to look back at all the parks and the roads and the things he did, and people out there respect the job that he did," the county judge said.

We're told 66 people either expressed interest or were recommended, but Judge Emmett does have a short list. He will announce the appointee in a press conference on Monday morning.

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Stories from the 13 Undercover 'Winning Hand' investigations and Commissioner Jerry Eversole


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