Updated March 7, 4:50 p.m.
Richardson's former mayor Laura Jordan, known while in office as Laura Maczka, and her husband, Palisades developer Mark Jordan, face up to 20 years in prison after a jury found them guilty on federal conspiracy charges.
Both Jordans were convicted Thursday on charges of honest services wire fraud, conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud, bribery concerning a program receiving federal funds, and conspiracy to commit bribery concerning a program receiving federal funds.
"This kind of corrupt relationship undermines the public’s confidence in government,” Eastern District of Texas U.S. Attorney Joseph D. Brown said in a press release. “This was more than an ethical violation. This was absolutely criminal. We need juries that recognize public corruption for what it is, and support prosecutions that attempt to hold accountable those that cheat. This jury certainly did that.”
The verdicts came after a more than three-week criminal trial in U.S. District Court in Sherman. Jurors deliberated over two days before reaching a decision.
Mark Jordan has been determined as a flight risk and therefore was taken into custody following the verdict, a spokesperson for the prosecution said. He will appear for a detention hearing March 8.
A date for sentencing has not been announced.
Original post: Fate of Richardson's former mayor and Palisades developer now in hands of a jury
Posted March 6, 11:53 a.m.
There's no dispute that Richardson's former mayor and the developer behind a controversial project had an illicit love affair several years ago. The question before jurors in their federal political corruption case is: was it the promise of a billion-dollar investment in the city or a full-blown conspiracy that motivated former mayor Laura Maczka to repeatedly vote in favor of rezoning the Palisades development?
After three weeks of testimony, jurors heard closing arguments Tuesday in the criminal case against the former mayor and her now-husband, Palisades developer Mark Jordan. Each face up to 20 years in prison and $250,000 in fines if found guilty on seven counts of wire fraud and bribery. Deliberations began Wednesday morning in a Sherman courthouse.
Even in light of strong opposition by residents of the neighboring Canyon Creek and Prairie Creek—which Mark Jordan's attorney Dan Cogdell described as "a nice neighborhood full of entitled people"—the former mayor was responsible for acting in the best interest of the entire city, the defense said.
"When [Laura] looked at the Palisades project, she didn't see Mark Jordan," Laura's attorney William Reagan Wynn said. "And when she looked at Mark Jordan, she didn't see Palisades."
Prosecutors accused Jordan—whom Maczka married in 2017—of currying favor with the former mayor by offering her money, gifts, sex and a salaried position at his company in exchange for votes that allowed for construction of Palisades. Their courtship and subsequent "sham marriage" are designed to convince jurors of true love, but in reality they were "born out of corruption and driven by greed," the prosecution alleged.
Attorneys for the Jordans said their clients engaged in deceitful, immoral behavior over the course of their relationship. But the lies they told were to protect themselves and their families from the emotional wreckage of an extramarital affair, the attorneys said. The couple was never motivated by the $100 million stake the prosecution claims Mark Jordan had in Palisades, attorneys said.
"They did what married people do when they are confronted with an affair—they lied," Cogdell said during his closing argument.
But prosecutors say the timing of their lies undercuts that claim. Mark and Laura Jordan had already admitted to their affairs and were separated from their respective spouses when they lied about the nature of their relationship to an attorney hired by the city of Richardson to investigate possible ethics violations committed by the mayor, prosecutors said.
"At this point she wasn't cheating on her husband—she was cheating on the city," lead prosecutor Christopher Eason said during closing arguments.
Mark Jordan allegedly revealed the true intent behind his affair to both ex-wife Karen Jordan as well as mistress and ex-business partner Sarah Catherine Norris, the prosecution claims.
"Look, you don't understand. We owe her," Karen Jordan testified that Mark Jordan said when she confronted him about the affair. "She made us a lot of money."
Outside of their testimonies, though, no emails, text messages or voice recordings ever surfaced to corroborate those claims, which the defense argued were fabricated by women scorned.
Laura Jordan did not need to be bribed, her attorneys said. She showed support for Palisades in a conversation with Mark Jordan's brother, Rodman, in 2012 before she had ever met Mark, her attorney Jeffrey Kearney said. And when she first voted on the project in November 2013, her relationship with Mark was strictly platonic, according to Kearney.
"She had nothing but a friendship with Mark Jordan when she set that vote that she carried through the entire project," he said.
Prosecutors said Maczka's 2013 campaign for mayor rested heavily on the promise of no new apartments built near neighborhoods. But the defense claimed that sound bite was taken out of context by prosecutors, and that the former mayor had, in fact, shown support for multifamily apartments within transit-oriented developments.
The 79-acre Palisades property was one of only two undeveloped swaths of land along US 75 in Richardson during that time. Maczka recognized early on the benefits a mixed-use, transit-oriented development in that location could bring to the city, her attorneys argued.
Compounding that claim is the support of Palisades by the majority of council members at the time. The project was passed 5-2 in three separate council votes leading up to final approval in June 2014.
"Five people voted for this that were very experienced people in Richardson," Kearney said during closing arguments. "And nobody changed their vote the next time or the next time."
Beyond the spectacle of the Jordan trial is the uncertain status of Palisades, located on the west side of US 75 at Palisades Boulevard. Since the property was rezoned in 2014, several apartment buildings comprising just under 600 units and a subdivision of single-family homes have been built. But the promise of a destination development—complete with shopping, restaurants and a hotel—has yet to be delivered.
According to city officials, construction on the remaining development could take place at any time or not take place at all. The outcome of the criminal trial in no way affects the future of the Palisades development.
Richardson Mayor Paul Voelker and Council Member Steve Mitchell were called to testify for the prosecution. Both said that Laura Jordan never offered them anything in exchange for support of the project.
But the former mayor and Mark Jordan did try to convince Mitchell to change his position during a private meeting, Mitchell testified. When it was clear he was not going to budge, Laura Jordan allegedly said, "we don't need your votes anyway," Mitchell testified.
When questioned about this incident, Voelker called it "unusual" for Laura Jordan to set up a meeting between herself, another council member and a private developer.
Bolstering the defense are text messages between Mark Jordan and Norris, in which he wrote that he and Laura Maczka “never did bribes.” This is enough to give the jury a “reasonable doubt” that any conspiracy occurred and should be grounds for acquittal, the defense argued.
But the jury does not need concrete evidence to convict the Jordans, the prosecution said. They need only be convinced of "partial corrupt intent."
Both parties could have had “mixed motives,” but even a hint of corruption is enough to convict them, Eason argued.
"She could have done it for the city and for [Mark Jordan]," he said. "He could have wanted the votes and the romantic relationship."
Read more: Palisades development stalled as criminal trial of Richardson’s former Mayor Laura Maczka unfolds