The defense attorney for Texas Southern University’s former president asked for a mistrial Friday after accusing a prosecutor of making inappropriate remarks about the case to reporters.
Priscilla Slade is accused of misspending more than half a million dollars in TSU funds to lavishly decorate her homes.
Mike DeGeurin, Slade’s attorney, told state District Judge Brock Thomas he should grant a mistrial because prosecutor Donna Goode told reporters that before the trial began Slade was offered a 25-year sentence if she pleaded guilty.
Goode told Thomas she made the remark during a break in the trial on Thursday and thought the comment was off the record.
DeGeurin denied that any plea offer had been offered to his client.
Slade, 55, is on trial for one of two counts of misapplication of fiduciary property with a value over $200,000. She was indicted last year. If convicted, she could face up to life in prison.
Thomas said he would consider the motion for a mistrial during a court hearing later Friday. But he told DeGeurin to proceed with his case.
On Thursday, prosecutors, after nearly five weeks of testimony, finished their case against Slade. DeGeurin began his case Friday with testimony from a property manager at TSU.
DeGeurin said he hasn’t decided if his client will testify.
A variety of witnesses, including current and former TSU employees, have detailed Slade’s spending habits while she was president of the state’s largest historically black university.
They testified Slade used TSU money to buy a 25-place dinner set worth nearly $40,000, a $17,000 sectional sofa, an entertainment center worth nearly $15,000, silk chairs that cost a total of almost $10,000 and a bed worth more than $9,000.
Slade also stuck TSU with a $100,000 tab from buying drinks for her friends and staff at some of Houston’s most expensive bars and had the university pay for her spa treatments, exercise classes and a $20,000 golf membership, according to prosecutors.
DeGeurin has argued the spending was legitimate and done to court donors and that Slade’s focus was on improving the university, not enriching herself.
The spending scandal cost Slade her job in April 2006. She and three other TSU workers were later indicted. TSU’s former chief financial officer, Quintin Wiggins, was sentenced to 10 years in prison in May.
The allegations coincided with reports that revealed a pattern of financial mismanagement at TSU and prompted Gov. Rick Perry to call for a state takeover of the university that was later put on hold. The entire nine-member board of regents resigned at Perry’s request.
Enrollment at TSU this fall, 9,544 students, is at its lowest point in five years. School officials acknowledge enrollment has been affected by the various scandals at TSU.
— Associated Press
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