NEWS HEADLINES

Ross trial starts Monday

By Kristen Tribe | Published Saturday, September 21, 2013

{{{*}}}Suspended Precinct 4 County Commissioner Terry Ross is scheduled to face theft charges in a trial that begins Monday morning in district court here.

Terry Ross

Terry Ross

Jury selection begins at 9 a.m. for the oft-delayed trial, in the second-floor courtroom of the Wise County Courthouse. Ross is charged with tampering with governmental records, theft of $500 to $1,500 by a public servant, and abuse of official capacity greater than $20 and less than $500.

District Judge Roger Towery out of Clay County will hear the case, which is being prosecuted by Tarrant County Assistant District Attorney Robert Gill. Ross will be represented by Fort Worth attorney Jerry Loftin. More than 20 people have been subpoenaed to possibly testify.

The trial has been previously delayed three times, most recently in April when District Attorney Greg Lowery recused himself after being reminded that he represented Ross in a criminal matter 16 years ago.

The commissioner was indicted in May 2012 for tampering with government records and abuse of official capacity for allegedly building a playhouse on public property, using county employees on county time, and using supplies purchased with county money.

The playhouse was seized from Ross’ home Feb. 7, 2012, as part of an investigation that started in late 2011.

In June 2012, a petition for his removal was filed, citing incompetency and official misconduct.

Towery suspended Ross without pay in August 2012 until the outcome of his criminal trial, which was then scheduled to start Oct. 30.

Until this time, Ross had continued to serve as Precinct 4 county commissioner, helping set the budget for the new fiscal year.

On Oct. 22 Ross was charged with theft of $500 to $1,500 by a public servant for allegedly building three grubbing plows, two for personal use. The plows were built with material belonging to the county, on county time by county employees, according to the arrest warrant affidavit filed in County Court-at-Law No. 1.

After that charge was filed, his trial was moved from Oct. 30, 2012, to Feb. 19, 2013. It was pushed back to April 23 before being moved once again, this time to fall 2013.

If Ross is convicted, he will face two to 20 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000 for tampering with governmental records, a second-degree felony. The theft charge is a state jail felony with a punishment of 180 days to two years in jail as well as a fine not to exceed $10,000.

Abuse of official capacity is a Class B misdemeanor with a punishment of up to 180 days in county jail and a fine up to $2,000.

If Ross is found not guilty, he will resume office, and the county will be required to award him back pay for the entire time he was suspended. It totals $91,791.57.

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County commissioners have a special called meeting at 8 a.m. Monday to discuss pending litigation and other legal matters in executive session. If action is required, it will take place in open session, which will immediately follow.

The meeting is in the third-floor conference room of the courthouse in Decatur.

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