The first full day of jury deliberations in the trial of Texas Southern University’s former president, who is accused of spending more than $500,000 of school money to lavishly furnish and decorate her homes, ended Tuesday without a verdict.
During closing arguments Monday, prosecutors said Dr. Priscilla Slade left a legacy of waste and betrayed trust as she misspent school funds on everything from $100 bottles of wine at lunch to landscaping to $40,000 china.
Her attorney argued that all of his client’s spending was done to improve the school’s status. He accused prosecutors of making her a scapegoat for the university’s problems.
After listening to both sides for more than three hours, jurors deliberated for nearly three and a half hours Monday before stopping for the day. Deliberations were set to resume Tuesday.
Slade, 55, is on trial for one of two counts of misapplication of fiduciary property with a value over $200,000. If convicted, she faces up to life in prison.
Prosecutors said that during Slade’s more than six years as president of the state’s largest historically Black university, she spent more than $138,000 on landscaping, more than $56,000 on a high tech security system and more than $100,000 in furniture and other home decorations, including nearly $13,600 for custom silk bedding and window treatments.
“Why did TSU have to spend that money to beautify Priscilla Slade’s bedroom?” prosecutor Julian Ramirez asked the jury.
Ramirez said the more than $523,000 Slade is accused of misspending could have been used better. “Eighty-five percent of TSU students are on financial aid,” he said. “It’s money she threw away.”
But Mike DeGeurin, Slade’s attorney, said Slade’s spending was justified because it was done to improve TSU’s image.
“You want your presidential house to be something that reflects an institution that is not a dusty, old institution but that it is something to be proud of,” DeGeurin said.
DeGeurin said Slade never tried to hide her purchases and blamed the problems on other TSU employees who had mismanaged the paperwork. Two TSU workers were indicted, but one had charges dropped.
Witnesses who testified on Slade’s behalf credited her with increasing enrollment, constructing new academic buildings and increasing donations to the school.
“Give Slade back her good name. Give her back her life,” DeGeurin said. “She was the greatest thing that happened to Texas Southern University.”
The allegations against Slade 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 in five years.
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