Jury begins deliberations in Eversole trial

March 28, 2011 3:33:22 AM PDT
The jury in Harris County Commissioner Jerry Eversole's corruption trial started deliberations Friday afternoon, but will return Monday morning to continue. Eversole is accused of taking bribes from his developer friend. The jury spent an hour deliberating this afternoon afer closing arguments and went home about 4:30pm. Jurors took a copy of the indictment home for the weekend. They will be back to deliberate at 9:30am on Monday.

A lot was on the line for Eversole in the closing arguments. His defense team rested its case earlier this week without calling a single witness.

We were in court Friday morning when Eversole arrived. He was smiling and shaking hands with people, thanking them for coming out to support him.

Eversole faces years in prison on conspiracy and bribery charges related to his longtime relationship with contractor Michael Surface. Prosecutors alleged Eversole was inappropriately influenced by gifts from Surface with a long string of gifts.

When the judge read the instructions to the jury, he made it clear that they don't have to prove a stated agreement between them in order to find Eversole guilty.

Eversole told us he slept just fine the night before and is still OK with the decision not to put on a defense, but knows how much is at stake here.

"That guy in the ninth inning, with two out and two on, that's who I'm thinking about," Eversole told us.

His freedom is on the line and his team has to win today.

"I think clearly there's no evidence Jerry did anything wrong," said defense attorney Rusty Hardin. "We'll just point out there's no connection between anything he did and anything that he and Surface did together."

Inside the federal courthouse, federal prosecutors reminded jurors of the way they see the evidence. Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter Mason told the jury, "In this old boys network, bribery doesn't exist out in the open. It exists in the dark."

He told the jury repeatedly that Eversole had numerous chances to tell the public what he was getting from his supposed friend and didn't.

"These are all his personal financial statements over the years. All these trips, did he bring them to light? Not at all, he hid it." said Mason.

"I feel real good about it," Hardin said.

Prosecutors began their closing arguments by pointing out the close proximity in dates between votes on country contracts and trips the two would take together. Defense attorneys stressed that there is no law or regulation making it wrong for a commissioner to vote on projects involving a friend.

In his closing, Hardin said, "This is the craziest conspiracy I've ever seen. There's no law or regulation making it wrong for a commissioner to vote on projects involving a friend."

But the evidence may suggest more than just a friendship. The indictment alleges more than $100,000 in gifts and trips from Surface to Eversole including that $63,000 check for Eversole's home.

"Let's talk about the 5,000 pound gorilla. What is that? We don't know and when you don't know, the tie goes to the defendant. That's reasonable doubt," Hardin told the jury. "You could infer it was a gift. You could guess it was a loan. You could infer it was a bribe. You can't guess him into the penitentiary, you can't infer him into the penitentiary."

Surface faces his own trial this fall on allegations he bribed Eversole. Surface has pleaded not guilty.

We're continuing to follow the case and will bring you the very latest on Eyewitness News and here on abc13.com.