Truth or Consequences

Jon Lindsay is an admitted liar and an accused perjurer. Should Harris County voters take him at his word - again?

The most damaging testimonial against Lindsay's penchant for truthfulness are his own words, uttered during the two videotaped depositions conducted for Driscoll by assistant county attorney Mike Fleming in 1994.

During one of the depositions, Lindsay denied the allegations of bribery by Corson sidekick Billy Wayne Chester, but under Fleming's aggressive questioning admitted to telling several lies. Those included making false statements in a letter of recommendation to federal regulators on behalf of Corson, who was angling to purchase a Kingsville savings and loan. One of the falsehoods to which Lindsay attested to in the letter was that he had been personally acquainted with Corson for many years. When Lindsay acknowledged to Fleming that the statement was false, the assistant county attorney sought to put a finer point on the admission.

"Well, we can call that a lie, that's what it is," Fleming said.
"Okay, call it a lie," Lindsay replied.
"Okay, well, you call it a lie, don't you?" Fleming riposted.

Concluded the judge, with his usual laid-back lack of emotion, "I'd call it a lie."

Then there was a $6,000 armoire that Corson gave Lindsay. After Chester's allegations became public, Lindsay took out full-page ads in the Chronicle and Post to defend himself, declaring, "In fact, I refused to accept the only thing Chester and his partner tried to give me, an armoire they had delivered to my office while I was out. I sent it back the moment I saw it."

"That's not true," Fleming said during the deposition, more than a year after Lindsay ran his ads. "It went to your apartment and your house."

"You're right," answered Lindsay. "You're exactly right, that's not exactly true!"

The same advertisement bore another significant discrepancy. Lindsay claimed he had entered into a limited partnership with Corson fully intending to "make 5 percent of the payments on future debts." But when he sat for the deposition, Lindsay claimed he had only promised "sweat equity" to Corson, once he had left office, and never intended to put up cash.

In another line of questioning, Fleming probed Lindsay's statements to then-Post reporter Pete Brewton, to whom Lindsay had denied knowing Robert Corson very well or having done business with him.

"Did you ever lie to Brewton regarding your relationship with Mr. Corson?" asked Fleming.

"Yeah, probably did," said Lindsay. He went on to explain that he didn't feel obligated to be candid with Brewton because he did not consider the reporter to be an honorable person, even though Lindsay knew his statements would be relayed to the public via Brewton's story.

Pressed recently on whether he felt an obligation as a public official to tell the media the truth, Lindsay again was nonchalant.

"In the future, if I have a reporter I don't trust, I probably won't even talk to them anymore. I'd just say, 'Go find somebody else to talk to,' " he shrugs.

Lindsay is stretched out in an easy chair at his townhouse behind St. Thomas High School off Memorial, an unprepossessing bit of urban turf he says he purchased with the investment money he didn't have to put up for that limited partnership with Robert Corson.

This is what Lindsay describes as the "hotel room," where he and his wife spend most of their non-working weekday evenings. The ambiance at the Snover Street townhouse is similar to that at the Lindsay home off Kuykendahl -- sort of an urban hunting lodge, heavy on the wildlife prints. The head of a large buck looms over the living room mantle, with strings from a window blind knotted on the horns.

According to Lindsay, everything he owns is paid for, with the exception of a bay house near Freeport, and he doesn't buy on credit. Wherever Lindsay has put his money, it's not on display in his homes. In fact, the lack of evidence in Lindsay's checking account for such routine expenses as groceries convinced the county attorney's office that he must have secret accounts in offshore banks from which he draws cash. The suggestion solicits Lindsay's vintage half-smile and one word: "Absurd."

Once again, the judge is engaged in one of his least favorite activities, fielding questions from a reporter. Given the previous experiences of some of the city's best investigative journalists, one wonders whether anything said here might not also be disavowed in the future based on the questioner's dishonorable nature.

"If my name never made it in the newspaper, I'd be happy," says Lindsay, "[but] it may be hard to get elected to something. Because of that, I reckon I've got to talk to you guys. I may not want to, but I got to." And on this afternoon, Lindsay is looking so relaxed and confident it seems he might never feel the need to tell a lie again.

"Having plowed through it all, yeah, I don't think anything could bother me as far as making me lose any sleep anymore on those ridiculous accusations that come up," he explains.

Then Lindsay pauses to ponder his good fortune.
"I've got a healthy retirement from the county. So if I don't make any outside money, I'm not losing anything. And, of course, you know what my wife does."

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