Jury selection in one of the highest profile trials in recent Brazos County history is complete, but not after a rough, but not unusual start Monday. The defense also made its wishes known: P. David Romei should get probation were he to be convicted.
Eight women and six men will decide the fate for the former Arts Council director. The trial begins at 8:45 a.m. Tuesday in the 361st District Court.
A pool of 350 potential jurors were summoned for the trial, but only 76 citizens showed up.
About half an hour after the selection process began with those citizens, 37 more potential jurors arrived inside the courtroom, brought in to the Romei jury pool from a civil case that had enough for its pool.
Smith told potential jurors this trial will not last more than two weeks, citing his reputation for making sure the proceedings move at a swift, but fair pace.
Late in the morning, District Attorney Bill Turner questioned the pool of potential jurors, asking among other things about their ability to be impartial, whether they have been victims of theft before, and how that might affect how they look at the case.
Richard "Racehorse" Haynes also questioned the potential jurors, asking them to apply what he called the needle test. He asked whether news coverage of the lead up to this trial and/or the bevy of prominent businesspeople and government leaders, among others, could sway that personal needle towards one side or the other, rendering them unable to objectively judge the case.
Romei is charged with third degree felony theft, accused of stealing city funds for his own personal use. He is also accused of two state jail felonies: one for theft from the arts council, the other for misappropriation of fiduciary funds, as he allegedly used arts money for campaign contributions.
Romei entered a not guilty plea on the charges, which carry up to 10 years in prison if he is convicted.
Monday, the defense entered an application for community supervision, stating that if the jury finds Romei guilty, he should be placed on probation because he has never been convicted of a felony.
From 1998 to 2005, Romei served as director of the Arts Council of the Brazos Valley, helping oversee a huge period of growth in the arts locally.
Romei's name is on the arts center built in 2003. He retired from his directors position in 2005 amid criticism that tax returns were incorrectly filed with the City of College Station.
Funding to the arts rose substantially in the Romei era, including funds from College Station. The city council appropriated hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to the arts council.
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