John Wiley Price Trial Closing Arguments Set for Tuesday

Judge casts more doubt on government case against Price

Closing arguments will be heard Tuesday in the John Wiley Price bribery trial with the jury considering all the charges even though the judge cast doubt on parts of the case Monday.

NBC 5's Ken Kalthoff will be tweeting live from the courthouse -- the latest information will be in his Twitter feed to the right. [[414360543,R]]

U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Lynn decided Monday not to dismiss some of the 13-count indictment that was returned in 2014.

Price, a Dallas County commissioner, is accused in 11 of the counts for conspiracy to commit bribery, tax evasion and deprivation of honest services through mail fraud.

After an eight-week trial, the judge said Monday she was close to dismissing the fraud charges for lack of evidence but chose to let the jury deliberate on all of the charges instead.

"The court, however, is strongly of the view the mail fraud linkage has not been made," Lynn said. "If these were the only counts I would not submit them."

Lynn said she is strongly considering dismissing the fraud charges even if the jury convicts Price on those counts.

Dominique Alexander, with the Next Generation Action Network, asked Price supporters Monday to be in the courtroom gallery Tuesday for closing arguments.

"It's a shame that our federal government came after a man that had dedicated his life to the service of Dallas County," Alexander said.

The government claims Price accepted around $1 million in bribes from political consultant Kathy Nealy in return for his support of her clients in county business. Price is also accused of failing to report money from Nealy and two other businesses on his tax returns.

Price's long time county aide, Dapheny Fain, is accused of two charges in the case, conspiracy to defraud the IRS and lying to federal agents. Nealy is to receive a separate trial later.

"No one piece of evidence is overwhelming. What they're hoping is the totality of it will get them over that hurdle of beyond a reasonable doubt," said former Dallas U.S. Attorney Paul Coggins. "At the end of the day, the jurors are going to have to decide, 'Who do we trust more?'"

Throughout the trial defense lawyers picked at government evidence, accusing prosecutors of unfairly choosing documents and financial records from more than 50,000 records that were seized to falsely make legitimate business seem sinister. Defense lawyers rested Thursday after presenting just two of their own witnesses.

KHVN Heaven 97 radio host Robert Ashley said callers to his talk show are divided about Price.

Closing arguments will be heard Tuesday in the John Wiley Price bribery trial with the jury considering all the charges even though the judge cast doubt on parts of the case Monday.

"There are some who believe he is guilty as sin. There are others who say he's a victim of selective prosecution because of his past civil rights activism here in Dallas, Texas," Ashley said. "A lot of people are basically saying, 'Why hasn't this judge declared a mistrial? Does this judge need to be scrutinized herself?'"

Four disclosures of new government evidence during the trial supported the defense claim of a sloppy investigation. Lynn strongly admonished prosecutors for failing to turn over those records before the trial.

Prosecutors apologized for the mistakes that were blamed on the overwhelming number of records. The government said the new records were irrelevant. But Lynn did allow defense lawyers to add some of the evidence near the end of the trial and she told jurors it was because of government errors.

"They got a boost because it is fairly uncommon for a judge to remark 'the government made a mistake,'" Coggins said. "It happens, but they got an instruction here that could cause at least some juror to lose some faith in the government's case."

The judge will take about an hour Tuesday to read jury instructions the lawyers debated Monday. Each side will get two-and-a-half hours for closing arguments. Deliberation could begin late Tuesday or Wednesday morning. Coggins said deliberation is bound to last at least two days with so much evidence to consider.

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