Key Testimony In Jeopardy In Price Corruption Trial

By Jack Douglas Jr. | CBSDFW.COM

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UPDATED: 6:00 P.M.

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) –  The judge in County Commissioner John Wiley Price’s federal corruption trial is considering quashing key testimony because of information withheld from defense lawyers.

Prosecutors told U.S. District Judge Barbara Lynn they inadvertently did not relay to the defense all of the information about the roles of former FBI Agent Don Sherman and FBI financial analyst David Garcia.

Once they discovered their mistake, prosecutors told the judge, they forwarded the information to the defense.

Sherman was, until suffering a stroke, the lead investigator in the government’s bribery case against Price. And Garcia played a vital part in tracking the nearly $1 million the FBI says Price took in bribes.

Defense lawyers for Price and his executive assistant, Dapheny Fain, argued they would have taken different strategies when cross-examining both men earlier in the trial, if they’d known then what they know now.

It’s now up to Lynn to rule whether to instruct the jury to ignore the earlier testimony by Sherman and Garcia.

And if that happens, the judge will have to decide whether to allow the government to recall the investigators to the witness stand.

The hitch arose as the government was winding down its case before the jury.

Testimony began Monday with an an Internal Revenue Service saying Price was not truthful in his filings to the IRS, failing to report tens of thousands of dollars that the FBI says he received in political bribes.

“The memo lines were not reliable,” IRS Agent Rene Hammett said of Price’s 2002 tax return form, which showed only $25,000 in “disposable income,” after taxes and other expenses were taken out of his government salary.

That amount, Hammett said, was about $75,000 less than what she said she later learned to be money Price received from his friend and associate, lobbyist Kathy Nealy.

Hammett then ticked off in dollars-and-cents figures discrepancies in Price’s tax return forms up through 2009 and beyond.

She was one of three witnesses that the government initially said they would call before wrapping up their presentation to the jury in Price’s federal trial on charges of corruption and tax fraud.

A second IRS agent testified later in the day, again going into great detail over Price’s tax filings, with the government’s closing witness expected on the witness stand tomorrow.

That means it will be the defense lawyers’ turn to call witnesses to the stand, with the case expected to go into deliberation by the end of the month.

Price has been quoted in The Dallas Morning News as saying he wants to testify in his own defense, if his attorneys will let him.

He is accused of taking nearly $1 million in bribes – in the form of cash, cars, real estate and art – from Nealy, in exchange for his help in steering lucrative county contracts and business to Nealy’s corporate clients.

Dapheny Fain is a co-defendant in the trial, now beginning its sixth week.

Nealy, also charged with political corruption, is expected to stand trial at a later time.

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