SHERMAN, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – Jurors in the federal bribery trial of former Richardson Mayor Laura Maczka, now Laura Jordan, and developer Mark Jordan must decide whether the case comes down to corruption or love.
Deliberations will begin first thing Wednesday morning after the prosecutor and defense attorneys spent the day Tuesday presenting their closing arguments.
The Jordans didn’t comment as they entered and left the courthouse in Sherman Tuesday.
While they are married now, prosecutors say the allegations of wrongdoing against them occurred during their previous marriages.
Prosecutors say to win approval for his proposal to build apartments near Central Expressway and the Prairie Creek and Canyon Creek neighborhoods, Mr. Jordan gave the former Mayor nearly $60,000 in cash, took her on $15,000 worth of luxury vacations, and spent $24,000 to renovate her house, all while having an affair.
In addition, prosecutors said Mr. Jordan hired Laura for a job at his company for $150,000 a year, which was more than double what he had paid another employee who was licensed.
The government said the former Mayor’s support for the project came after she campaigned on a platform of opposing apartments.
During closing arguments prosecutor Christopher Eason told jurors, “This is not about an affair, it’s about corruption” and that they were “lying to cover up the corruption.”
Eason also said, “She was the first popularly elected mayor in the City of Richardson. She abused her positions of trust at his (Mark Jordan’s) direction.”
She served as Mayor from May 2013 through May 2015.
Council members previously selected the city’s Mayor.
Timing of the couple’s affair is key, but differs depending on who you ask.
Eason, the prosecutor said a former business partner of Mr. Jordan’s, Sarah Catherine Norris, said Jordan admitted that he began having the affair with the Mayor in the fall of 2013 for the purpose of winning her vote to change the zoning on the land where his apartments would be built and to approve the project.
Eason presented an email from the Mayor to Mr. Jordan November, 21, 2013 after she had met with residents of the Prairie Creek neighborhood who strongly opposed changing the zoning to make way for the apartments.
The email said, “I was taking bullets for you.”
On December 9, 2013, the Mayor and a council majority voted to change the zoning of the land 5-2.
But defense attorneys said the former Mayor had publicly supported the proposed apartments in December 2012, before she met Mark Jordan.
She said she favored apartments that would be built along the transit-oriented corridor along Central Expressway.
Defense attorneys said the couple started their sexual affair in January 2014, after the city council’s vote to change zoning.
It was the first of four votes on the project.
The second vote came in late January 2014, the third took place in June of that year, and the fourth and final vote came September 22, 2014.
The council voted 5-2 each time for the project.
Mrs. Jordan’s attorney told jurors this was “A love affair, not a bribe” and that while she “created a horrific appearance of impropriety” that Mark didn’t bribe Laura, he didn’t need to bribe Laura.”
Mark Jordan’s attorney described the couple’s affair as a “Poor choice. It’s an immoral choice. It’s not a federal felony.”
He repeated told jurors that “It’s not bribery, it’s not corruption, not a kickback.”
The couple’s lawyers said Mr. Jordan gave the Mayor the money, trips, renovations and job after their affair began and after the votes.
But prosecutor Eason said the Mayor received $1,300 from Mr. Jordan before the final vote.
If convicted, the Jordans each face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and fines.
Cheri Hubert, a Richardson resident, said she believes the government has presented a strong case. “The defense so far is taking an emotional position. So does evidence matter or do emotions matter?”
For the past several weeks, she has been traveling to Sherman every day to watch the trial.
“My family would tell you why are you doing this? Because it’s important to know that the citizens matter, whether our votes matter,” Hubert said.