Former Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings testified as the final government witness Monday in the federal bribery trial of housing developer Ruel Hamilton.
Federal prosecutors rested their case and then the defense began in the trial. Hamilton is accused of illegal payments to two former Dallas City Councilmembers, Carolyn Davis and Dwaine Caraway.
Rawlings spoke about the workings of city government and one issue in particular, the debate over a Dallas sick leave ordinance.
Hamilton supported the requirement that all Dallas employers offer sick pay.
Hamilton spoke about his support at an Aug. 1, 2018 press conference, the same day trial testimony showed that Hamilton asked former City Councilman Dwaine Caraway for a favor.
Caraway happened to be meeting with the Federal Bureau of Investigation that day when Hamilton called and arranged to meet Hamilton the next day at his campaign headquarters office on Cedar Crest Boulevard.
A video of that Aug. 2, 2018 meeting between Caraway and Hamilton was played as evidence in the trial. Afterward, Hamilton gave Caraway a $7,000 check, one of the alleged bribes in the case.
Hamilton’s defense attorney Abbe Lowell has argued in court that the money was not about Hamilton’s housing business and Hamilton was only seeking Caraway’s support for the sick time law. Hamilton pleaded not guilty.
In cross examination of government witnesses, Lowell has shown alternative explanations for Hamilton’s alleged bribes and highlighted circumstances of the timeline of events that the government left out.
At the Dallas City Council meeting on April 24, 2019, where the sick time law was approved, Rawlings spoke against it.
Rawlings said at the time that the law was bound to be struck down by courts because the state has jurisdiction over the issue, which is what later happened.
In court Monday, Rawlings said the sick time law was a political ploy that could not be enforced.
Former City Councilman Scott Griggs, who was running for Mayor in 2019 and supported the sick time law, was a defense witness for Hamilton Monday.
Griggs said Hamilton’s affordable housing projects were well maintained.
As a member of the City Council Housing Committee, Griggs said he also supported a tax credit application for one of Hamilton’s projects, the Royal Crest Apartments.
Griggs said the state tax credit application was likely to be rejected anyway and he did not see an advantage in publicly opposing Hamilton’s effort.
A key part of the case against Hamilton is $40,000 of alleged bribes to former Housing Committee Chairperson Carolyn Davis, partly for her support of the Royal Crest Apartments tax credit application.
The project was not approved for a city loan or the state tax credits that could have netted $2.7 development fee to Hamilton’s firm.
Davis pleaded guilty in the case but died four months later in an automobile crash.
Caraway pleaded guilty in the Dallas County Schools bus scandal. He is serving a 4 and a half year sentence. Caraway testified against Hamilton last week.
A total of 21 defense witnesses are listed in court records for the Hamilton trial, which could last another week.
Rawlings and Griggs have not been accused of any wrongdoing.