John Wiley Price digs in for fight in first week of bribery trial

Price Trial: Week 1

DALLAS - Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price arrived at the courthouse each day this week outwardly sharp dressed and confident.

But there were few smiles this week when prosecutors started showing jurors photos taken by the FBI during their raid in June 2011.

In Price's Oak Cliff home, a safe containing $230,000 in cash, including stacks of 100 dollar bills.

They also found jewelry, and designer watches.

FBI agents also searched Price's pockets that day in 2011. They found a credit card of his political consultant Kathy Nealy, the lobbyist for various Dallas County vendors.

Prosecutors used simple language during opening statements and to lay out a complex case alleging Price's corruption.

They say he got more than $1 million in cash, real estate and cars in return for insider bid information and his vote in helping to award millions of dollars in county contracts. Prosecutors say he got help hiding money from his longtime assistant Dapheny Fain, who is also on trial.

Nealy is charged in the case, but will be tried at a later date. Her lawyers Russell Wilson and Cheryl Wattley are attending Price and Fain's trial to watch the government's evidence presentation.

Nealy figures largely in the government's case.

Among the evidence shown to jurors this week was a 2007 email from the county purchasing agent to Commissioner Price regarding a prospective vendor seeking a technology contract.

Four days later, Price forwards that same email to Nealy, who then allegedly provides the inside information to the vendor -- one of several paying her hundreds of thousands of dollars to advocate for them with Price.

This trading of insider bid info is specifically prohibited by law. Why? It helps give companies that might not provide the best service for taxpayers a leg up on better, more qualified companies who play by the rules.

Commissioner Price, who has been elected nine times since 1984 and is one of North Texas' most influential politicians, swore oaths to obey the law every four years. And yes, prosecutors introduced those oaths of office into evidence this week.

So what's the defense say?

In short, they say the government's evidence -- spanning a decade -- is too old.

They also say that the hundreds of thousands in money going back and forth among Price and female friends was nothing more than innocent loan repayments.

Most of the testimony this week has been of FBI agents, and defense attorneys Shirley Baccus-Lobel, Chris Knox, Tom Mills and Marlo Caddedu have challenged them on their tactics, their methods and have accused them of ignoring transactions that show, they say, that their clients are innocent.

John Wiley Price, they say, was the subject of a government vendetta, a volatile yet generous man who loaned money to help friends and who serves the taxpayers of Dallas County to the best of his ability.

That will be up to the jury to decide -- if they stay healthy enough to last the next four months.

Email investigates@wfaa.com

Copyright 2016 WFAA


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