The lead FBI agent who suffered a stroke in the middle of the John Wiley Price bribery investigation made it to court Tuesday to testify against Price.
Don Sherman said he feared he might never walk again after the 2012 stroke. He said his medical setbacks delayed work on the investigation. But the FBI offered him a consulting position in retirement to keep going.
Sherman used a cane to slowly step to the witness stand Tuesday. He said his memory is still fresh and he spoke clearly to the jury.
In 2005 Sherman also supervised the investigation of Dallas City Councilman Don Hill, who is now in prison for taking bribes. Sherman said the Price investigation began then with bank records from a government witness in the Price trial, Kathy Nealy. According to Sherman, the records showed political consultant Nealy made large money transfers to Price, which the government claims were bribes to win the county commissioner's favor for her clients.
Sherman led the June 2011 FBI raid on Price's home and office. Agents found $225,000 in cash in a safe at the Oak Cliff house. Sherman said agents had been watching the place with a pole-mounted camera installed across the street. They wanted to monitor people and cars there. Vehicles provided to Price by Nealy are another part of the alleged bribery scheme. All together, prosecutors claim Price received about $900,000 worth of payoffs from Nealy.
The Dallas County Administration Building was also raided that day in 2011. Sherman said he interviewed Price's county aide, Daphne Fain, in the empty commissioners courtroom about her outside business, MMS, that sold promotional products to AT&T and other companies. Sherman said Fain was cooperative at first but became concerned when Sherman pressed her over alleged payments to Price from her business.
Prosecutors claim Price and Fain failed to report $127,000 to Price from that business on income tax records. They also accuse Fain of lying to the agents in that interview when she denied Price received money from her business.
Fain's defense attorney, Tom Mills, pressed Sherman about details of that interview in cross examination, and Sherman repeatedly said he could not recall those details. Mills said agents had been posted at doors of the room to block other people from entering, which would have amounted to detaining Fain.
Sherman said Fain was not given a Miranda warning about the right to remain silent, because she was not in custody and spoke voluntarily. Sherman said he could not recall asking agents to guard the room.
The defense insists Fain's money to Price only repaid loans he had made to her and was not unreported income to Price.
Price defense attorney Chris Knox cross-examined Sherman about government record keeping. The defense insists the government overlooked documents in the massive haul of records that would show all the Price transactions were perfectly legal.
Daphne Fain is on trial now with Price, but Kathy Nealy was granted a separate trial at a later date to be determined.
The judge has told jurors the Price trial could last through June. More than 150 additional people are listed as witnesses for the government. Trial is set to continue Wednesday morning at 8:30 a.m.