Here are some frequently asked questions about the John Wiley Price investigation and trial. Have a question that's not covered here? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Who is John Wiley Price?
Price is a legendary Dallas politician and civil rights activist, arguably the most powerful elected official in this part of Texas.
He is currently serving his ninth term on the Dallas County commissioner's court.
Here's how he describes himself, here's how a former reporter-turned-Dallas-mayor described him in 1991, here's a DMN 2011 profile of him, and here's some additional background on him that we at WFAA have compiled.
Who all is on trial?
Price is on trial with his longtime assistant Dapheny Fain. For more information on the trial's key players, click here.
What are the charges in the case?
Price is charged in a wide-ranging conspiracy to take bribes from mostly technology firms seeking contracts with Dallas County, which as a county commissioner he had a role in awarding. He has pleaded not guilty.
The 107-page indictment contains several counts, and each carries its own maximum penalty if he’s found guilty.
+ Conspiracy to commit bribery concerning a local government receiving federal benefits – up to 5 years
+ Honest services/mail fraud – 20 years
+ Tax evasion – 5 years
+ False statement – up to 3 years
Dapheny Fain charges:
+ Tax evasion – 5 years
+ False statement to the FBI – 5 years
Who are the lawyers in the case?
The prosecutors are Walt Junker, Nicholas Bunch, Katherine Miller, Leigha Simonton, and Wes Hendrix.
How likely is it that there will be convictions?
Price is charged with federal crimes, which means he is being investigated by FBI and IRS agents, and prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Northern District of Texas.
Federal prosecutors rarely lose criminal trials, including public corruption trials. That’s because they are selective about the cases they investigate and take to court. Most of the people they charge with crimes plead guilty. When federal prosecutors do go to court, the evidence – which usually takes years to accumulate and analyze – is, in a word, overwhelming.
Can a defendant be acquitted? Certainly. But it's very difficult.
Can there be partial convictions?
Yes. Jurors will hear evidence about each individual count alleged in the indictment. When it’s time for them to render a verdict, they will have to make an individual decision about each individual count.
That can mean there is a mixed verdict. For example, they could find the defendant or defendants not guilty of some counts, and guilty of others. For example, here's the verdict form jurors filled out in Dallas' last big public corruption case, that of former Dallas City Councilman Don Hill. More on him later.
Why do all these counts matter? They matter at sentencing. Let's say that a defendant is acquitted of a minor count, and convicted on others. In order to come up with a sentence, a federal judge takes all the sentencing ranges for each of the guilty counts, and come up with a number of months in prison per defendant.
Judges take into account whether the defendant is remorseful, how much support they have in the community (or not), whether they have cooperated with the government in their own case or investigations of others, the nature of the crime, and other mitigating circumstances.
What do we know about the Price jurors?
Juror names are confidential and closely guarded by the judge. But here's what we know.
The Price case has 14 jurors, 12 regular jurors and two alternates. There are four African Americans on the panel.
The alternates listen to all the testimony alongside the regular jurors. This is so they can fill in seamlessly in case one of the regular jurors has to leave the panel for whatever reason.
If there are any alternates left when it’s time to render a verdict, they do not deliberate. However, if a regular juror has to leave the panel at the deliberation stage, the alternate will join the group, but deliberations have to start from scratch.
Jurors are not told who the alternates are during the trial, so that they all pay equal attention to the evidence.
What’s the deal with Kathy Nealy? I thought she was on trial, too?
Nealy, a former powerful Democratic political consultant and a close associate of Price, is charged in the same indictment as Price and Fain. She was set to go to trial with them, until January. That’s when Judge Lynn ordered that Nealy get a separate trial. Why? So as to give the lawyers time to debate whether Nealy should have even been charged in the case at all.
Here’s the back story.
For years, Nealy has fed the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s office information about political corruption in Dallas. This is because she was ensnared in a previous public corruption investigation involving former Dallas City Councilman Don Hill. In exchange for her testimony against Hill in 2009, Nealy was not charged in that case. She was given immunity, in a sense, and even talked about it on the witness stand. In fact, Judge Lynn presided over the Hill trial, and on the day Nealy was to take the stand, she asked prosecutors how much protection Nealy had against incriminating herself. Prosecutors assured Judge Lynn that they weren’t going to charge Nealy. But what was left unresolved at the time was how broad of a deal Nealy had struck with prosecutors. Complicating matters, that agreement with the government was not in writing.
Fast forward to 2016. By this time, Nealy is charged in the Price investigation. Nealy’s attorneys began arguing to Judge Lynn – yes, that same judge from the Hill case – that Nealy’s 2009 agreement also protected her from being charged in any future case, not just in the Hill investigation. Judge Lynn ultimately ruled that, based on her memory of that 2009 trial, and on Nealy’s lawyers' legal arguments, there is enough of a question about Nealy’s status that it has to be worked out before she goes on trial. So as to not delay Price and Fain from getting their day in court, Judge Lynn decided to “sever” Nealy’s case and get to the bottom of her immunity agreement after the Price/Fain trial.
What are the most important documents in the case?
This investigation has generated a blizzard of court filings, but here are some of the most crucial.
Here’s a holdover from the Don Hill investigation – Kathy Nealy’s 2003 - 2004 appointment calendar, portions of which will also be used in this Price/Fain trial.
Also, here are transcripts of Nealy's 2009 testimony in the Don Hill case:
Who can attend the trail?
Any member of the public.
Judge Lynn's courtroom is on 15th floor of the Earle Cabell Federal Building and Courthouse at 1100 Commerce Street in downtown Dallas. There are pay parking lots on the south and west sides of the building.
As you can imagine, federal courthouses are very security conscious. Bring very little with you, and be prepared to take off your shoes, watch and belt at the two security stations. And bring a photo ID. You’ll have to leave your cell phone, if you choose to bring one, with the 15th floor security guards. Best to just leave it at home or in the car, since there are (generally) no electronics allowed in federal courtrooms.
For high profile trials like this one, Judge Lynn has set up a media workroom on the 13th floor of the courthouse for reporters covering the case. The room has a live video and audio feed. If you see reporters tweeting about the trial, it's likely they're in there.
How do I keep up with the case otherwise?
Coverage of the trial will ebb and flow. High profile witnesses will garner more press attention than days with mundane testimony. It’s all a living, breathing civics lesson, though. WFAA’s Investigates team will staff the trial on many days, and will be live tweeting @wfaaiteam. We also have set up a special section of our website for people to follow the case: wfaa.com/johnwileyprice.
Also, as the trial progresses, the court will upload evidence here:
Who will the witnesses be?
Just because someone is on the list is no guarantee that they will testify.
How long will the trial last?
Judge Lynn has estimated it will last through June, but it's unclear at this point. She has made it clear that it will last no longer than June. (UPDATE: The case should wrap before the end of April.)
How much evidence will there be in the case?
Here is a link to the latest government exhibit list.
There are about 2,000 exhibits logged there, with some room for more. Typically, prosecutors will add exhibits as needed, depending on issues that the defense attorneys raise during their cross examination of government witnesses.
Those exhibits are not the totality of the government’s hoard in this case, however.
It’s been estimated that the FBI and federal prosecutors have amassed 7.9 terabytes of documents and other digital evidence in the case, all of which they had to turn over to defense attorneys, who have spent years going through it and forming their own theories about the case.
Here's a breakdown of what makes up all those terabytes of government evidence.