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John Wiley Price Trial Judge Accuses Prosecutors of Improper Conduct

Prosecution rests as Judge pushed trial forward

The prosecution rested Tuesday in the John Wiley Price bribery trial but only after the judge strongly lectured prosecutors for repeatedly turning over documents to the defense in the middle of the trial.

Judge Barbara Lynn denied defense motions for a mistrial over the government mistakes but said the conduct of prosecutors was improper. She said she would carry a motion to dismiss the charges pending further developments in the trial that started Feb. 21.

Chad Meacham, a high ranking official of the Dallas U.S. Attorney’s Office, appeared before Lynn to apologize for the errors.

“We have fallen short on this,” Meacham said.

Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price and his county aide, Dapheny Fain, are accused in an 11-count indictment that was first unsealed in 2014. Both pleaded not guilty.

FBI agents have testified the investigation began in 2010. Raids were conducted in 2011 at many locations to gather evidence. More than 50,000 financial transactions were examined in the case.

The latest documents handed over Monday night pertain to a condominium and American Airlines Center suite controlled by political consultant Kathy Nealy, a codefendant in the case who is accused of paying Price around $1 million in bribes. Nealy is to receive a separate trial later.

Requesting a mistrial Tuesday morning, Fain’s attorney Tom Mills accused prosecutors of negligence and malfeasance for failing to share the documents before the trial.

“We have no reason to believe there will not be more documents produced,” Mills said.

A contrite prosecutor, Walt Junker, agreed the new material is extensive but claimed that it is irrelevant to the case. Junker said the documents were set aside for copying if Nealy had been included in the current trial and should have been shared.

“It is humanly impossible for anyone person to be familiar with every document in this case,” Junker said.

Price defense attorney Shirley Lobel said one detail, showing that Nealy gave Price authority to supervise the punch list for construction in her condo, would support the friendship that existed between the two in personal business and transactions.

“It shows what we have been trying to show in this case,” Lobel said.

Lobel was permitted to admit that document as evidence Tuesday.

Defense lawyers claim the government falsely made the repayment of loans and other legitimate transactions between Price and Nealy look like bribes.

Lynn agreed the burden to produce records that could help defense lawyers defend their clients is on the government.

“The scope of this investigation and prosecution is of the government’s making. It is not the defense,” Lynn said. “This was undertaken by the government. Difficult as it is, the government is obligated to staff the case.”

The trial resumed after the Judge's lecture Tuesday morning with defense cross examination of lead FBI Agent Allen Wilson. The judge accepted very limited prosecutor objections as a concession to the defense for prosecutor errors. Wilson was grilled over details the defense claims were errors but he maintained that government accusations are accurate.

The prosecution rested after the Wilson cross examination and the judge denied routine defense motions for aquittal. 

The defense began with the opening statement Dapheny Fain's attorneys saved for this point in the trial.  Fain is charged in just two counts of the indictment for conspiracy to defraud the Internal Revenue Service in her side business and lying to the FBI about Price's role in that business. Attorney Marlo Cadeddu said Fain committed no crimes and deserves to be cleared by the jury.

The trial ended early Tuesday afternoon to allow a juror to attend a doctor appointment. Defense witnesses are expected Wednesday. Defense lawyers have said they may need about two weeks to call their witnesses. The trial could go to the jury by the end of April.

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