NEW ORLEANS — Four years after one of the most powerful men in Dallas was convicted in a corruption and bribery scandal, he has a shot at freedom.
Former Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Don Hill, who is serving time in Kentucky, has an appeals hearing in New Orleans on Tuesday.
Supporters and family members are still praying for redemption, and on Monday, they headed to Louisiana for that court appearance.
"I'm sure it will encourage him during this process," one said.
"This has been the longest three years of my life without my son," said 87-yer-old Mary Hill.
She said she hardly recognizes her son in photos sent from prison.
"Look at his beard," she said, observing the change from black to predominantly gray.
It's hard for her to look back. Don Hill is only three years into an 18-year sentence for corruption.
He was a rising politician in Dallas. In jail, he now has worked as a janitor and a teacher.
"He said he went from the restroom to the classroom, so he loves his teaching job," his mother said.
Still, Mary Hill said he is hopeful. He calls her every Sunday, and passes time by watching preachers like Joel Osteen and T.D. Jakes on TV.
"He is a good man," Mary Hill said. "He doesn't deserve to be where he is."
Prosecutors strongly disagree with that assessment.
Four years ago, news of the arrest and conviction of the eight-year City Council member rocked Dallas.
Hours of wiretaps convinced jurors Hill shook down developers for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Yet he has always insisted he is innocent, that he never saw a penny, and was punished far too harshly.
Hill is now bringing those assertions to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.
"He's got to come through this," Mary Hill said. "He's got to come through this."
The appeal also includes Don Hill's wife and an associate, D'Angelo Lee, who were also convicted.
Their families worry this could be the last chance to convince a court to throw out the original charges or to order a new trial.