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Monday, November 27, 2006

Slade faces claims of lying

Prosecutor seeks to unseal the testimony of ex-TSU president
Former Texas Southern University President Priscilla Slade may have lied to the grand jury that later indicted her, Harris County prosecutors told a judge Monday.

Prosecutor Donna Goode sought to unseal Slade's grand jury testimony so that Slade's former assistant can review it for inconsistencies. If conflicts are found, an aggravated perjury charge could be added to the felony charges she faces.

The grand jury indicted Slade and three of her aides Aug. 1 on charges of misapplication of fiduciary property in relation to her use of university money for personal expenses while she was president.

"I think there's enough concern on my part to go through the gyrations of filing the motion," Goode said when asked whether there were specific allegations. She would not comment on the specific testimony in question, however.

Slade's attorney called the effort a "fishing expedition." Slade was fired in June after TSU attorneys concluded that she failed to follow university policies and state laws while spending more than $260,000. A criminal investigation later revealed more than $1.9 million was spent during her tenure on such purchases as artwork, club memberships, spa treatments and tickets for sporting events.

She is charged with two counts. If convicted, she faces a sentence ranging from probation to life in prison.
Slade's attorney, Mike DeGeurin, called the move an attempt to unseal her testimony for witnesses before her trial.
By alleging that Slade may have lied to the grand jury, prosecutors can show testimony to witnesses who otherwise would not have had access to it, he said.

"There has to be a particularized need to look into grand jury testimony," DeGeurin said. State District Judge Brock Thomas is expected to rule on unsealing the testimony Nov. 28.

Aggravated perjury is a felony in which someone lied under oath in a court proceeding about something material to the inquiry.

If convicted, Slade could receive probation or up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Slade is scheduled to be tried with three of her aides: Quintin Wiggins, Bruce Wilson and Frederick Holts, who were indicted in connection with their roles in the purchases.

However, some attorneys for the four defendants are arguing that their clients should be tried separately, or "severed" from the others. The judge will rule on severance requests Jan. 9.

DeGeurin said he has not decided whether he will ask for a severance. At least one defendant will go to trial Feb. 16, Goode said, but the possibility of severances makes it impossible to determine who at this point.


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