A recent ruling by a federal appeals court could jeopardize the conviction of a North Texas mayor and her husband.
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals recently threw out the conviction of Dallas developer Raul Hamilton, who was accused of bribing two Dallas City Council members. The appeals court ruled that money given to the council members was a “gratuity” and not a “quid pro quo” bribe, according to the federal bribery statute.
The Fifth Circuit’s ruling agrees with two other U.S. circuits, which have also ruled that the federal bribery statute in question criminalizes only quid pro quo bribes and not gratuities. However, five other circuits have ruled that the law covers both bribes and illegal gratuities.
The appeals ruling could deal a blow to a similar bribery conviction that involved Richardson’s former mayor.
The former mayor of Richardson, Laura Jordan neé Maczka, 57, and her husband Mark Jordan, 55, were convicted last summer on multiple counts of conspiracy, bribery, and tax fraud.
Amos Mazzant, United States district judge, sentenced both individuals to serve 72 months in federal prison and fined the pair $100,000 each. The couple is scheduled to begin serving their sentences on October 24.
However, the recent appeals court ruling prompted the Jordans’ defense lawyer to argue that the former mayor accepted noncriminal gratuities, at most, and not bribes. The recent reversal of a bribery conviction in Dallas should apply to the Jordans’ convictions, said the couple’s defense lawyer.
Not everyone agrees with that assessment.
“There’s usually a quid pro quo, even in gratuity cases,” said Paul Coggins, a former U.S. attorney in Dallas. “The promise, the quo, doesn’t have to be explicit. Circumstantial evidence is powerful evidence that can prove there was a quid pro quo even though there was no specific promise.”
Coggins added that if the jury is properly instructed about the “quid pro quo” element, the Fifth Circuit’s ruling should not affect future prosecutions.
Prosecutors said Maczka and Jordan “conspired to devise and execute a scheme to commit bribery. Maczka, contrary to her campaign promises, supported and repeatedly voted for controversial zoning changes sought by Jordan, ultimately allowing for the construction of over 1,000 new apartments in Richardson near other Richardson neighborhoods.”
According to the Department of Justice investigation, between May 2013 and April 2015, Maczka, now Laura Jordan, and land developer Mark Jordan carried out a conspiracy to commit bribery and tax fraud, all while concealing their illicit conduct from the City of Richardson and its taxpayers.
In the two years that Laura Maczka was mayor of Richardson, she regularly voted to approve zoning changes that benefited Jordan’s development projects, according to investigators. In return, Mark Jordan paid her over $18,000 in cash, an additional $40,000 by check, and paid for more than $24,000 in renovations to her home, among other things, according to prosecutors.
The pair were allegedly involved in a romantic relationship at the time the crimes were committed and later married before going to trial.
The couple, who were first indicted in 2018, had each faced up to 26 years in prison. A conviction was handed to the couple in March of 2019, but Judge Mazzant ordered a new trial on the grounds that the verdict could have been prejudicial.
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling could lead to a third trial if the Jordans’ defense lawyer makes a compelling argument.
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