As Government Prepares to Rest Its Case in the John Wiley Price Trial, His Lawyers Have a Tough Climb

Is Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price the lying, cheating, tax-dodging, corrupt public servant federal prosecutors and the FBI say he is? After eight weeks of testimony by witnesses for the government, we had hoped we might have a more definitive answer to that question. But the evidence presented so far has not been the kind of slam-dunk case we suspected the prosecutors would have, after so many years of preparation. It has been six years, after all, since an army of agents from the FBI, IRS and other agencies fanned out across the county raiding the homes and offices of Price and other suspects. Consider the case agents presented in 2009 against former Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Don Hill. Prosecutors in that case had hours of secretly recorded conversations — culled from 30,000 wiretapped calls — that filled the courtroom with Hall's own voice saying shady things. Prosecutors in the Price case have not presented any wiretapped conversations. Nor do they have their version of Brian Potashnik, the housing developer who flipped from defendant to star witness on the eve of the trial and testified that he had paid Hill's wife $14,500 a month for consulting services he didn't need. In the Price case, the feds claim Kathy Nealy, a longtime friend of Price's, paid him $1 million in cash and other gifts over the years, including rents from properties she owned and the use of luxury cars she owned. But unlike Potashnik, Nealy didn't flip, despite being indicted and facing a trial of her own later this year. Nor has Price's chief of staff, Daphne Fain; she is charged with lying to the FBI and tax fraud, and is a co-defendant in Price's trial.Still, none of that means Price's attorneys will have it easy when they begin their case, as soon as Monday. The government seems to have shown that Price regularly violated county rules by sending confidential information to Nealy's clients, including information about competitors' bids. They've shown that Nealy made payments for years to Price. And they've shown that Price often took actions that favored her clients. If Price is right, that this money from Nealy was just her repaying off-the-book loans he'd extended her over the years, then why would Price do so much to help her clients cheat? For that matter, why would he meet with Nealy's clients in person, or talk to them on the phone, if he wasn't trying to steer the county's business their way?Price may answer some of these questions himself, if he agrees to testify. We hope he does, though that seems unlikely. Regardless, his lawyers have a tough job ahead of them.   Continue reading...

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