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Trying Eversole

The Chron wonders if the freshly-indicted Jerry Eversole can beat the rap.

That will depend on whether federal prosecutors can convince a jury that the gifts Surface gave Eversole and the actions the commissioner took that benefited Surface constitute conspiracy and bribery. The burden is on the prosecution to prove what legal observers variously call “a criminal state of mind” or “improper purpose.” In other words, that Eversole and Surface made a deal.

All the while, if Tuesday’s courthouse press conference pronouncements foreshadow a legal strategy, defense attorneys Rusty Hardin and Chip Lewis will be telling jurors that Eversole and Surface were motivated by affection, not avarice, and accusing the government of “criminalizing a 30-year friendship.”

“Bribery can be a little tricky to prove because it requires proof of a quid pro quo agreement,” said Sandra Guerra Thompson, a professor at the University of Houston Law Center. “It’s not enough to prove gifts on day one and then something that the public official does on day two. There has to be proof of that agreement.”

Defense attorney Dick DeGuerin sees a high bar to clear: “Gifts between personal friends, even if one is a public official that deals with a business that a friend has are not only permissible, they’re completely lawful. Tying any gift to any specific action is another problem that I see.”

I’m sure all of that is true. I can’t help but think, however, that many people (myself included) had spoken about how hard it would be for the prosecution to convict Tom DeLay without any direct evidence. We know how that turned out. I know this isn’t how it’s supposed to work, but I have a feeling that if the government has a decent circumstantial case, a jury isn’t going to give a known miscreant like Eversole much benefit of the doubt. We’ll see how it goes.

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