Three More Government Witnesses Before Defense Begins at Price Bribery Trial

Three current or former elected officials testified Monday

Just three more government witnesses remain before the defense case begins at the bribery trial of Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price.

Three current or former county elected officials testified against Price Monday. All three said they would have gone to authorities if they knew about the evidence federal prosecutors showed them in court.

Former Dallas County Judge Jim Foster received little respect from Price between 2007 and 2010 when Foster served as the county's top elected official. Price was forced Monday to watch Foster testify against him on the witness stand.

Foster told the jury he thought Price was going to hit him for opposing Price on a 2007 issue.

"He leaned over with a clenched fist and said, 'You sorry SOB. I should lay you over right here,'" Foster said.

Foster said Price made the remark in the Dallas County Commissioners Court chamber where Foster called a recess to let the confrontation cool down.

Prosecutors claim Price received money from political consultant Kathy Nealy for his support on that issue. Foster opposed Price's request for a delay on a Foreign Trade Zone plan to add Hillwood Development property in DeSoto. Hillwood was Nealy's client. Nealy is to receive a separate trial at a later date, yet to be scheduled.

Defense attorney Shirley Lobel questioned Foster's recollection of details and understanding of the issues.

After his testimony Monday, Foster declined to gloat about confronting Price in court.

"It's a sad day for the taxpayers of this city and this county, and I'll be happy to talk in great detail once the verdict has been rendered in this trial," Foster said.

The jury also heard from Margaret Keliher, Foster's predecessor as Dallas County Judge. Keliher said she would have been "suspicious" if she'd known about payments to Price from Nealy. But Keliher admitted having "no personal knowledge" about the actual purpose of the transactions.

Defense attorneys have argued throughout the trial that more than $1 million in cash and gifts Price received was only repayment of past loans or other legitimate business and not bribes.

Price also denies tax evasion accusation for unreported income in the trial.

Current Dallas County Commissioner Mike Cantrell testified Monday that he was also unaware of inside bid documents Price allegedly leaked to Nealy's clients.

"It doesn't enable the county to receive the best price possible," Cantrell told the jury about favors for vendors.

Cantrell admitted he often votes with Price on county issues and that Price is typically very well informed and hard working.

After his testimony, Cantrell said county ethics rules have been improved in the wake of this case.

"There've been different procedures put in place, different staff, just a whole different scenario now, a lot more transparency," Cantrell said. "If somebody wants to do something that's illegal, no matter what policy you have in place, it still can be done. But what this policy does, it hopefully makes it more difficult to do that."

Several days were scheduled off this week for prior juror commitments when the trial began. The trial resumes next Monday.

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