DALLAS – Jurors today began deliberations in the corruption trial of Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price.
It may take anywhere from hours, to several days, for the 12-member panel to sift through hundreds of pieces of evidence – mostly financial records – to determine the guilt or innocence of one of North Texas’ most powerful politicians.
Over the past seven weeks, prosecution witnesses have told jurors that Price accepted more than $1 million in bribes in the form of cash, cars and real estate over about a decade from companies seeking lucrative county contracts. In exchange, prosecutors say, Price voted in their favor then hid the money from the IRS.
Price’s top assistant Dapheny Fain is also on trial, accused of helping her boss and longtime friend in the alleged scheme.
The main conduit of the alleged bribes, Price’s top political consultant Kathy Nealy, will be tried later.
Defense attorneys say the commissioner took no bribes, and any money he received from Nealy or Fain consisted of innocent loan repayments.
The verdict, when reached, is likely to be complicated.
Jurors are considering several charges against Price, including conspiracy to commit bribery, mail fraud, tax evasion and a separate charge of filing a false tax return. If convicted of all of it, he could face decades in prison.
But Chief U.S. District Judge Barbara Lynn has all but promised to throw out any convictions on the mail fraud counts citing lack of evidence. Those counts could amount to 20 years in prison, and without them, Price is looking at a maximum of 13 years if convicted of the rest.
Fain is charged with tax evasion and lying to FBI agents. She faces a maximum sentence of 10 years.