DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – After nearly six years of mystery, the federal government on Tuesday finished unveiling its massive criminal case against Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price, accusing him of political corruption, bribery and tax fraud.
“At this time, your honor, the United States government rests,” announced prosecutor Nicholas Bunch, handing the witness stand over to the defense to begin countering what the government has worked to build — a story of a shady elected official, conspiring with his executive assistant, Dapheny Fain, and his good friend, lobbyist Kathy Nealy, to rake in nearly $1 million in exotic cars, cash and property, hiding much of the loot from the Internal Revenue Service.
In laying out its case to the jury, the prosecution was marred by repeated mistakes, the biggest being their failure to turn over all of the materials, as required by the court, so defense lawyers can prepare their defense.
The omissions drew anger from the judge, the most vehement coming at the beginning of trial on Tuesday, but she denied for the second time a motion for a mistrial.
During the past eight weeks, prosecutors called a wide array of witnesses — from a mechanic and a hair stylist to high-level executives working under Dallas billionaire Ross Perot Jr. — to prove their conspiracy.
In addition, Price’s colleagues on the Commissioners Court, both past and present, were called to testify, along with a long list of accountants, real estate professionals, financial analysts and FBI and IRS agents.
Through it all, Price watched from the defense table, flanked by his attorneys, whose ears he would routinely whisper into.
The Dallas political landscape was shakened in the summer of 2011 when FBI agents, armed with search warrants, swooped into the home and offices for Price, a government and civil rights activists for decades. Since then, few details had been disclosed about what the FBI had on Price and his close associates, until the trial began in late February.
Now, it’s the defense lawyers’ turn to call witnesses, to show that it was all just a big misunderstanding; that those stacks of cash came from loans — and the repayment of loans — not from bribes taken from unsuspecting corporate bidders who sought, and often won, lucrative contracts and other business with the county.
And as the trial moves on, all eyes are on Price, who turns 67 this month, to see if his lawyers allow him to take the stand in his own defense, and talk publicly, for the first time, about the serious charges that have dogged him for more than half a decade.