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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Prosecutors have admitted more mistakes in its federal corruption case against Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price.
The government said today it had found more information that should have earlier been turned over to defense attorneys for Price and his executive assistant, Dapheny Fain.
The disclosure threatens the testimony already given to the jury by the government’s two star witnesses, former lead FBI investigator Don Sherman and FBI financial analyst David Garcia.
“I’m very disappointed…it’s just preposterous,” an angry Judge Barbara Lynn said, noting the government has had years to properly prepare for trial. Lynn told lawyers on both sides, outside the jury’s presence, that she would decide later on how to handle the government’s legal fumble.
The development was soon followed by the highly anticipated testimony from FBI agent Allen Wilson, who led the Price investigation after Agent Sherman suffered a stroke. Wilson said the FBI launched a secret investigation in May 2010 after agents realized his 2008 personal financial statements did not accurately reflect his greater income – money, the government says, that was garnered by taking bribes.
Agent Wilson then described for the jury the seldom-seen actions of a yearlong FBI covert operation, using “pole cameras” and the publicly available computer app, Google Street View, to spy on Price’s home and a business owned by Fain.
Wilson said they were especially interested in the expensive vehicles seen in Price’s driveway, including an Aston Martin that he said was traded for a Bentley. They were all driven by the commissioner, according to the agent, but on paper owned by his friend, lobbyist Kathy Nealy, a co-defendant in the bribery investigation.
Wilson said that at the beginning, on April 29, 2010, he and Sherman “simply drove by” Price’s home, traced the plates on a late-model Chevrolet Avalanche pickup in the driveway, and, “How about that,” it was shown to be owned by Nealy.
Price’s lead lawyer, Shirley Baccus-Lobel, objected when Wilson told the jury he and Sherman thought it was “strange” that Nealy – a woman – would own such a pickup truck.
Wilson said the FBI was also secretly watching when Price dined with another friend, Karen Manning, a Dallas dealer of African artwork who has pleaded guilty to lesser tax crimes in connection with the case.
In a broad investigation that has lasted seven years, the government has accused Price of taking nearly $1 million in bribes – using Nealy as a conduit – in exchange for his help in steering lucrative government contracts and other business to lobbyist Nealy’s corporate clients.
In addition, the embattled commissioner is accused of hiding his ill-gotten gains, with assistance from Fain and Nealy, from the Internal Revenue Service.