Gag Me! Jail Time Possible Before Trial Begins

Contempt hearing on gag order set Monday morning before jury selection

By Ken Kalthoff
|  Friday, Jun 19, 2009  |  Updated 9:15 PM CDT
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Former Councilman Don Hill Trial To Begin Monday

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A judge wants to talk with defendants who may have broken her gag order in the city hall corruption case.

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Former Councilman Don Hill Trial To Begin Monday

Former Dallas city councilmember Don Hill is among several people who will go to trial Monday in a city hall corruption case.
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Former Dallas City Councilman Don Hill and several others involved in his federal corruption trial have been ordered to appear in court at 8am Monday morning over concerns they may have violated a gag order issued in the case.  The judge can order jail time as a penalty.

U.S. District Judge Barbara Lynn issued the gag order June 12 to limit publicity and help select an impartial jury. “It appears she thinks somebody didn’t take this gag order as seriously as it was meant to be taken,” said former US Attorney Paul Coggins Friday.
 
Hill, his wife and his lawyer have spoken on the radio, on TV and to a newspapers since the gag order was imposed. 
 
Among other things they spoke about a prayer vigil being held for the Hills by several ministers outside the Federal Courthouse on Sunday night at 6pm. “Not to fight and talk about the guilt or innocence of Don and Shelia Hill, but really for us to rally with prayer on these issues of fairness and justice,” Hill said on KHVN radio Thursday afternoon.
 
KHVN talk show host Robert Ashley said callers have mixed opinions about Hill. “There are some who feel he is as guilty as sin, and there are others who feel its selective prosecution on behalf of the federal government.” 
 
Ashley said many people in the African American community are sympathetic to the black former councilman’s claim that he was targeted because of his race. But Ashley said many listeners are also anxious to hear the government evidence. “No hearsay, but what do you have empirical,” Ashley said.
 
Coggins has tried high profile cases and he believes the judge in this one is concerned about fairness as well. “It’s going to be very interesting what comes down Monday in terms of this contempt hearing,” Coggins said.
 
Hill’s city office and his home were searched by the FBI on June 20, 2005. Two years later he was indicted by a federal grand jury along with a developer, a former Dallas Plan Commission member and 13 other people in a bribery scheme for city approval of apartment construction deals.
 
Several defendants will be tried separately. Four defendants have pleaded guilty and are expected to testify against Hill. “The defense lawyers will be ready,” Coggins said. “They’ll be prepared to cross examine those people.”
 
Records indicate the government also has many hours of wire-tap phone conversations, some involving informants who were not charged in the case. 
 
The trial is scheduled to last three months.

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