Star Witness in Richardson Mayor’s Bribery Trial Was Herself a Thief, Defense Alleges

SHERMAN -- Defense attorneys for Richardson's former mayor and a developer accused of buying her votes presented evidence Monday that a key government witness had a motive to lie: her alleged corporate embezzlement of about $1.2 million. Sarah Catherine Norris stole the money, the defense claims, from Sooner Management, which she owned equally with Mark Jordan before she ended their business partnership in 2014. And Norris approached the FBI about Mark Jordan's relationship with the mayor to deflect attention from her own misdeeds, the defense attorneys said. Mark Jordan is on trial with the former Richardson mayor. He is accused of bribing Laura Jordan with cash, gifts, expensive trips and sex in 2013 and 2014 when she was mayor and a supporter of his controversial Palisades development off Central Expressway. The couple say love was their motivation, not a bribery scheme. They married in 2017 after divorcing their spouses. Prosecutors rested their case Friday, and the defense team presented its evidence Monday, which focused mainly on Norris' credibility. Closing arguments are scheduled for Tuesday morning after which the jury will commence deliberations. Earlier in the trial, Norris testified for the government that Mark Jordan told her he was just "using" the mayor, known then as Laura Maczka, for her votes. And Norris is the only witness to testify that the affair between Mark and Laura Jordan began before she voted for a December 2013 zoning change for his development that added numerous apartments. Neighbors fiercely opposed the apartments. Laura Jordan voted for the change despite having promised during her mayoral campaign not to support apartments near neighborhoods, prosecutors say. Norris had a brief affair with Mark Jordan before he began courting Laura Jordan, according to trial testimony. Dan Cogdell, an attorney for Mark Jordan, has portrayed Norris as a jilted lover determined to seek revenge. Earlier testimony showed that Norris hired a private investigator to follow Mark and Laura Jordan, and that she tracked his whereabouts and emails. Norris testified that she did so because his reckless actions were a liability. On Monday, defense attorney Dennis Hester showed jurors bank and credit card statements as well as general ledger entries that showed Norris used Sooner money to pay her personal expenses and to pay her brother. Norris owned half of Sooner Management with Mark Jordan, but he earned most of the company profits, according to defense exhibits. A defense expert witness, retired IRS investigator Steve Scheets, testified Monday that his examination of Sooner's and Norris' financial records showed that Norris intentionally "manipulated the books" to try to cover her tracks. Norris has not been charged with a crime. Mark Jordan has not sued Norris over the money in question, nor had he reported the alleged theft to authorities. But Scheets testified that Mark Jordan has had "discussions" over what to do about the alleged theft after the federal bribery trial. Motive to lie? The seven-count indictment filed last year accuses Laura Jordan, 54, and Mark Jordan, 52, both of Plano, of honest services wire fraud, conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud, conspiracy to commit bribery, and bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds. If convicted, they each face up to 20 years in federal prison. Mark Jordan paid her over $18,000 in cash and $40,000 by check for her votes, according to the indictment. He also paid for over $24,000 in renovations to her home as well as for luxury vacations, the indictment said. And he gave her time, attention and sex, which both defendants valued highly, prosecutors said. Prosecutors had tried to keep evidence of Norris' alleged theft from the jury, arguing that such a "mini-trial against Norris" could cause "confusion, delay and distraction." Cogdell, however, said in court filings that the evidence should be admitted because it shows Norris has a motive to lie. "Evidence of Ms. Norris' theft is relevant to her motive to fabricate testimony because if Mr. Jordan is convicted, she will never face the consequences of stealing over a million dollars from him," he said. U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant allowed the evidence, saying in his March 1 ruling that he failed to see how allowing two more defense witnesses to testify would cause "the excessive confusion or the sideshow the government fears," particularly since prosecutors have presented over 40 witnesses of their own. Norris oversaw all of Sooner Management's financial accounting, according to defense witnesses. Scheets, a private investigator and forensic accountant, said Norris used Sooner Management money to pay some of her credit card bills and disguised them as payroll expenses. Norris used her credit card for, among other things, more than $13,000 in purchases from an upscale furniture store, as well as more than $12,000 worth of cosmetics, according to defense exhibits. Scheets said he also found that Norris boosted her monthly pay for five months without Mark Jordan' approval. And she took money from Sooner by falsely recording the payments as non-taxable expense reimbursements, Scheets told jurors. Norris also transferred $100,000 from Sooner to an account in her brother's name, Scheets said. And she also used Sooner money to make higher car payments, Scheets testified. Norris transferred money from another one of Mark Jordan's companies to Sooner Management to cover the amount she had taken, Scheets said during his testimony. He said Norris did not correctly record any of the suspect payments in Sooner's general ledger. Assistant U.S. Attorney Glen Jackson asked Scheets during cross-examination if any of the money Norris allegedly took from Sooner went to a public official. It did not, Scheets said. In response to more Jackson questions, Scheets said he did not focus on payments Mark Jordan made from the Sooner account, nor did he know about any business arrangements between Norris and Mark Jordan at the time. Jackson concluded by asking Scheets if he ever accepted cash or gifts from someone he investigated when he was with the IRS. He did not. "Why not?" "It's against the law."  Continue reading...

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