Love Or Lust for Money? Jurors Hear Attorneys Make Their Final Case in Richardson Mayor’s Bribery Trial

SHERMAN -- She was a rising political star who became Richardson's first mayor elected by voters. Previously, the city council chose the mayor. Laura Maczka also was the first female mayor pro tem elected in the city. Mark Jordan was embarking on his first real estate development -- in Richardson -- after a lucrative career in office leasing. They met when he was seeking actions from the city that would make or break his Palisades development, and potentially earn him millions of dollars. But their business relationship became an affair. It would end in disgrace, scandal, investigations, career ruin and ultimately federal criminal indictments against both of them for bribery. Prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed Tuesday during closing arguments in the four-week federal trial that the couple told many lies about their relationship. Defense attorneys, however, say the case is about courtship and love, not bribes. Now it's up to a jury to interpret the evidence and determine the couple's true intent. "You've heard about a relationship born out of corruption, driven by greed and covered by lies," Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Eason told jurors. Eason said Mark Jordan both influenced and later rewarded Maczka for her votes and support for his controversial development, which added apartments that neighbors vehemently opposed. Mark Jordan stood to earn as much as $100 million from the Palisades, Eason said, but he had a problem: a mayor who campaigned on not putting apartments near neighborhoods. The reward for Maczka changing her position, Eason said, was a high-paying job as a leasing agent when she stepped down as mayor -- a job for which she was neither qualified nor licensed. The two married in 2017 in a rushed ceremony, according to trial testimony. Eason called it a calculated move recommended by their attorney as a defense strategy. Were they in love? Eason said she "definitely loved his money and lifestyle." And he "loved her position." Eason told jurors that the government merely has to prove that a portion of the couple's intent was corrupt. Maczka, now known as Laura Jordan, could have had a "mixed motive," he said, of selling her votes and also wanting a successful development to benefit the entire city. People can have many different reasons for their actions, he said. Eason told jurors the couple made their intent known when they tried to conceal their crimes by deleting emails between them and lying about their relationship to a city ethics investigator. Mark Jordan also lied under oath about the timing of his affair with Laura Jorden in his divorce proceeding, Eason said. And neither disclosed the gifts Mark Jordan gave the mayor, he said, who earned $2,600 per year in that position. Eason said the benefits were considerable: over $18,000 in cash; $40,000 by check; over $24,000 in renovations to her home; luxury vacations; and sex. That alone is enough to reveal their corrupt intent, Eason told jurors. He called it a "window into her mind." Jeff Kearney, an attorney for Laura Jordan, questioned the check evidence, saying "You don't write bribery checks on your own personal account." And he disputed Eason's claim that Laura Jordan wasn't qualified for the job Mark Jordan gave her, telling jurors she leased 176 buildings in 33 months and "ran circles" around other employees. The government presented over 40 witnesses and dozens of exhibits, but key evidence that Eason said proved Mark Jordan's true intent came primarily from two witnesses: Mark Jordan's ex-wife, Karen Jordan, and his ex-lover and business partner, Sarah Catherine Norris. Both women told jurors that Mark Jordan revealed to them his plan of influencing and rewarding Laura Jordan for voting for his zoning request. Eason said he asked jurors to rely only on portions of their testimony that were corroborated by other evidence such as travel records and email. But Kearney and Dan Cogdell, another defense attorney, attacked their credibility during their closing arguments as they had during their testimony, portraying them to jurors as jealous, angry -- and worse. Cogdell said Karen Jordan was "distraught" and "emotionally unstable" at the time, having recently been hospitalized following a suicide attempt. Cogdell said Norris' motive to lie was her theft of more than $1 million from a management company she owned with Mark Jordan that made very little money to begin with. With Mark Jordan behind bars, Norris could rest easy that he could not pursue her, Cogdell said. He called her a "thief and a liar." "That woman wouldn't know the truth if it bit her in the behind," Cogdell said. On Monday, Cogdell showed jurors the company's general ledger, its bank account records and Norris' credit card statements. A defense expert, a former IRS agent, said he used the records to find that Norris used the business to pay her personal expenses. Norris defended her use of the money during the trial, saying she owned half of the company. Eason said the defense's attacks on the women were a "total distraction." He said it was against Karen Jordan's interests to testify because Mark Jordan was continuing to support his ex-wife financially. As Eason put it, such testimony could "kill the golden goose." 'Cheating on the city' Eason told jurors the government is unconcerned about an affair, the merits of apartments or whether or not the Palisades development is good for the city. The issue, he said, is that, "She's lying to cover up corruption." Eason said Mark and Laura Jordan both deleted an email in which she told him she was "taking bullets" for him at a community event involving the Palisades. Eason played a video of Laura Jordan denying her relationship with Mark Jordan at a city council meeting. "This is outrageous!" he said, pounding the podium. "She lied to everyone's faces." Eason said the ex-mayor continued to lie about the relationship and the benefits she received from Mark Jordan when she no longer had to, such as after her separation from her husband and subsequent divorce. "She doesn't have a husband," Eason said. "It doesn't make any sense to cover this up." Why did she do it? "She's cheating on the city," Eason said. Eason asked jurors to consider whether Mark Jordan would have lavished Laura Jordan with trips and gifts had she voted against his zoning request. Of course not, he said. "He's using her to get this vote," Eason told jurors. As for Laura Jordan, Eason said she wasn't going to "throw away her political career for nothing." "She wanted what he had," Eason said. "She wanted his lifestyle." Set in stone Reagan Wynn, an attorney for Laura Jordan, said her actions were not criminal but did create a "horrific appearance of impropriety." The mayor's affair with a developer with business before the city council, he said, "basically got her run out of office." And rightfully so, he added. But unethical and immoral behavior doesn't mean the pair had criminal intent, Wynn said. Kearney told jurors prosecutors based their case on innuendo, conjecture and speculation rather than facts. He showed jurors a December 2013 video of Laura Jordan explaining her support for the Palisades zoning during a city council meeting. In it, she called her campaign literature opposing apartments near neighborhoods a "soundbite." She then qualified that position by saying she supports apartments in transit corridors like Central Expressway. Kearney called that the mayor planting "her stake in the ground." He said that when Laura Jordan cast her first vote on the Palisades project during that 2013 meeting, which he and Cogdell called the "critical vote," there was no evidence of her having an improper relationship with Mark Jordan or taking so much as a dollar from him. "He didn't need to bribe Laura," Kearney said. The vote was 5-2 in favor. Kearney said the sexual relationship didn't begin until January 2014. And subsequent council votes on the project didn't change, Kearney said. "Laura had already set her vote in stone" before taking anything of value from Mark Jordan, he told jurors. As for Mark Jordan, he "influenced Laura's heart," not her vote, he said. Cogdell said the government's own evidence - its undercover tapes - proved Mark Jordan's innocence. That's because he's heard on the tapes denying bribery and telling witnesses to tell the truth, Cogdell said. He also told jurors one of the lead FBI agents in the case engaged in inappropriate and unethical behavior with Mark Jordan's ex-wife, including late night phone calls and texts. Cogdell told jurors another FBI agent on the case testified that his colleague broke agency rules by having hours of undocumented contacts with a witness and was an "embarrassment to the FBI." That rogue agent, he said, infected the entire investigation with his bias. Cogdell said prosecutors harped on Mark Jordan's womanizing because it's "evidence designed to make you dislike him." The jury begins deliberations Wednesday morning.  Continue reading...

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