John Wiley Price Called Generous Public Servant and Greedy, Selfish Crook in Opening of Trial

Federal jurors who will decide the fate of veteran Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price will have to determine whether he's a hardworking public servant who helped his close friends in need or a greedy and corrupt man who enriched himself by selling his vote and position of influence.Those were the two versions of Price that the government and the defense presented to the federal jury on Monday during opening statements in his political corruption trial. Price's bribery, mail fraud and tax evasion trial is expected to last through June. As a packed gallery watched, attorneys for both sides summed up the case for jurors and told them what the evidence will show.Price, a powerful and influential commissioner who has served since 1985, is accused of taking almost $1 million in bribes over a decade from a lobbyist to help her clients. Prosecutors also say he failed to report those bribes and other income in his income taxes. If convicted of all 11 counts against him, Price, 66, could spend decades in prison.Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicholas Bunch went first and asked jurors to "follow the money" like federal agents did.Using diagrams on a video monitor, he zeroed in on specific dollar amounts that he said went to Price from three women: his political consultant, Kathy Nealy, who allegedly gave him about $900,000; his executive assistant, Dapheny Fain, who allegedly used a side business to pay him about $127,000; and Karen Manning, a friend who sold his African art at her Dallas gallery, allegedly netting him $83,000.Price hid the money, which came to a little over $1 million over a 10-year period beginning in 2001, he said. It amounted to about double his roughly $100,000 salary every year, Bunch said. When agents raided Price's home in 2011, they found stacks of $100 bills and $50s in a safe, he said."He wasn't telling anybody about it," he said. "Every time he's elected, he swears an oath to uphold and to follow the law...the law says you've got to disclose it."Price did not disclose the money in his financial disclosure statements required of public officials, and he didn't report it in his annual tax returns, he said.Bunch said the case boils down to greed, corruption and lies.Nealy was not "just a pass-through" for the companies that sought county contracts and other approvals, Bunch said. They hired Nealy and she paid bribes to Price for results that made her look good in the eyes of her clients, he said. Price also pressured some businesses seeking county work to hire Nealy, who commanded fees up to $5,000 a month for lobbying work, he said.'Something more'Bunch said Price worked hard for things he cared about such as jail crowding and minority contracting."He's worked hard to serve the community," he said.But Price made the choice that he "was entitled to something more," Bunch said.He told jurors this isn't going to be a case involving "bags of money passed under the table." Rather, it will involve tedious and convoluted banking transactions devised to hide the bribes, he said, such as third-party checks, split-deposited checks, cash withdrawals and rent payments."All of that money flows to him," Bunch said about Price.Price, for example, set up an account in his mother's name, but he used the money for his benefit only, Bunch said.  Continue reading...

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