Jury Deliberates in Austin Trial Connected to Alleged Price Bribes

The jury went home for the night to resume deliberation Friday after closing arguments in the Austin trial of a woman connected to the John Wiley Price corruption investigation.

Business executive Helena Tantillo was the only witness in her defense Thursday as attorneys finished presenting evidence.

Tantillo is accused of lying to federal agents about payments to a consultant the government claims were used to bribe Price, a Dallas County commissioner.

In court she said she never intended to lie and never knew about the alleged bribe to Price in 2004. Tantillo was interviewed by federal agents three times in 2013 and 2014.

"I did believe I was telling the truth," she told the jury Thursday.

But Tantillo admitted making "mistakes" in details she gave the federal agents in the second two interviews about telephone calls she made to a business associate after the first interview.

"I was feeling very pressured, very afraid and I was confused," she said.

Tantillo said she went to all three interviews without a lawyer because she thought she'd done nothing wrong and had nothing to hide.

Tantillo refuted testimony given Wednesday by Christian Campbell, the consultant she hired to help win a Dallas County records management contract for her employer.

Campbell pleaded guilty earlier to conspiracy as a co-defendant in the Price bribery case.

Campbell testified in Tantillo's trial that she helped him planned the Price bribe and increased Campbell's contract to pay for it.

In closing arguments before the jury Thursday afternoon, defense attorney Mike Gibson attacked Campbell.

"He's not worthy of belief. He admitted under oath he's a liar," Gibson said.

But lead prosecutor Nicholas Bunch told the jury documents and other evidence support Campbell's story and Tantillo is the liar.

"Her purpose was to mislead," Bunch said.

Price pleaded not guilty and faces trial in September. Campbell is expected to testify against Price and if convicted, Tantillo could also be pressured to testify for the government to reduce her possible five-year prison sentence.

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