Key witness had faulty memory at John Wiley Price bribery trial

Karen Manning
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DALLAS – Prosecutors put on one of their key cooperating witnesses Monday to testify against John Wiley Price, but she fell short of offering up much information about the overall bribery conspiracy he is accused of using to enrich himself.

Karen Manning told jurors that Price gave her hundreds of pieces of his African art collection – dubbed the “John Wiley Priceless Collection” – to sell in her art gallery at the South Side on Lamar. Price also had his own key to the gallery, found on him during a 2011 search.

She also said she hosted birthday parties and other campaign functions for the Dallas County commissioner, whom she has known for 17 years.

She also talked about her guilty plea to tax evasion, for which she could get a lighter sentence if she testifies truthfully about her dealings with Price. She faces a maximum of three years under the statute.

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But prosecutors did not ask her about her role in any larger scheme involving Price.

Price’s lawyer, however, did – only so she could refute it.

Shirley Baccus-Lobel clarified for jurors that Manning was “not here to talk about any conspiracy” with Price. Correct, Manning testified.

Price is accused of taking about $1 million in bribes from technology firms seeking contracts with Dallas County over about a decade. His assistant Dapheny Fain is also on trial charged with lying to the FBI about her role in the alleged scheme. Both are accused of tax fraud.

Most of Price’s alleged ill-gotten gains passed through his former campaign consultant Kathy Nealy, who is also charged in the bribery conspiracy. Nealy is receiving a separate trial later.

Manning’s role is much less prominent in the case. Prosecutors say that Price laundering about $280,000 of his alleged bribery money, and campaign money, through Manning’s gallery, which was called Millennium 2000. Prosecutors also say Price didn’t any taxes on any of the revenue on any of the art he sold at Manning’s gallery.

Manning is not charged in the bribery case.

Under questioning by prosecutor Katherine Miller, Manning appeared to have trouble recalling even basic details about her gallery business, which she ran for about a decade first in DeSoto and then at the South Side on Lamar.

She balked at directly admitting that Price sold artwork through her shop, although she conceded the point when confronted with photos of tagged items labeled with Price’s tags and with business records and receipts.

Price sold some things himself, but Manning told jurors she sold the bulk of his artwork for him. She took a $45 commission on each sale.

Price’s team got much more cooperation. Manning agreed with them that Price was a good friend to her. She agreed that he worked to help promote her business to prominent people in the community, including Potter’s House pastor T.D. Jakes, to whom she sold some home furnishings.

Manning also hosted a birthday party for Price sponsored by former Dallas Cowboys legend Emmitt Smith and his wife, Pat.

Price did none of that to “take a cut,” Shirley Baccus-Lobel told jurors. Manning agreed.

Dallas County purchasing agent Linda Boles also testified Monday about the process by which companies make bids for lucrative county contracts.

The system is designed have companies submit their bids in secret so that they cannot undercut competitors. Prosecutors say Price got money from some bidders, through his political consultant Kathy Nealy, and in exchange provided Nealy, and thus her clients, with confidential information on competing companies’ bids.

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