Alleged Bribe to John Wiley Price Detailed in Austin Trial

Defense witnesses are scheduled Thursday in the Tantillo trial

Dallas County Commissioner Mike Cantrell was in Austin Wednesday to testify in a trial dealing with alleged bribes to fellow Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price.

Cantrell is not accused of any crime, but his name surfaced in the trial of a woman connected to the alleged Price bribery conspiracy.

Cantrell was summoned to deny claims of defendant Helena Tantillo.

Her defense argues that money prosecutors claim she supplied for bribes was really intended for charity contributions to please Cantrell.

In court Cantrell strongly denied being involved in any corruption.

"This is devastating. It's embarrassing. You've got friends, family, it's uncalled for," Cantrell said.

Consultant Christian Campbell, who pleaded guilty to the conspiracy, testified for the first time Wednesday before a jury about his part of the scheme.

Campbell is the key government witness in the Tantillo trial and expected to testify when Price goes to trial in September, along with co-defendant Kathy Nealy and another woman.

Tantillo is accused of lying to federal agents about money she supplied to Campbell, supposedly to bribe Price for a county contract with her firm in 2004.

Campbell said Tantillo was anxious to prove herself with the firm, Bearing Point, where she had just been promoted to managing director.

"Winning Dallas County would definitely help her career," Campbell said.

When Bearing Point was to be eliminated from the competition for a records management contract, Campbell said Tantillo agreed they should approach Price's political advisor, Kathy Nealy, for help.

About his subsequent meeting with Nealy, Campbell told the jury "she said 'it's going to cost you. It's going to cost you $7,500.'"

The jury saw a $7,500 check from Campbell to Nealy written on August 26, 2004 and a $2,500 check from Nealy to Price the next day.

Evidence in the trial has shown that Price helped get the final contract to Bearing Point in the weeks after that money was paid.

Tantillo's defense attorney Mike Gibson claims Campbell acted without Tantillo's knowledge and that Campbell is testifying now to reduce his own possible sentence.

Prosecutors tried to present evidence that Tantillo and Campbell had a personal relationship in 2004, meeting at hotels in several cities.

The government wanted to show the jury that communication between the two was more than just of a business nature to help disprove claims that she did not know what Campbell was doing. But the judge ruled the personal information is too prejudicial and it was excluded.

The government rested its case around 4 p.m. Defense witnesses are scheduled Thursday in the Tantillo trial. The Tantillo trial could last several more days.

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