NEWS 8 INVESTIGATES
DALLAS Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price was back at work Monday. He was trying his best to return to a normal existence after the drama of last Friday.
That's when he and three associates were indicted by a federal grand jury on a variety of charges, including allegations that Price and political consultant Kathy Nealy bribed companies doing business with Dallas County.
But there's an old saying: 'It takes two to tango.' So if Price was indicted for accepting bribes, then shouldn't the business person paying the bribe also be charged?
That was the question growing louder in the community on Monday, and according to KHVN radio talk show host Robert Ashley, it's a question that needs to be answered.
'If Commissioner Price is accused of accepting bribes and taking money and these companies allegedly got contracts, is that OK?' Ashley asked.
Sarah Saldana, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas, is not answering any more questions following Friday's announcement of the indictment of Nealy, Price, his assistant Dapheny Fain, and consultant Christian Campbell.
'We go after the evidence, wherever it takes us, and now it's taken us to these four defendants,' Saldana said at a Friday news conference.
Yet only those on the receiving end of the alleged bribes and hiding of assets have been charged.
While the 107-page indictment makes numerous inferences of business people paying bribes in exchange for contracts with Dallas County, none of them has been implicated.
At least, not yet.
'The government may have multiple strategies that no one can know except them and that they are not telling,' said Matthew Orwig, former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas.
Orwig says one reason no business person has been indicted could result from a lack of evidence. What is essential, he said, is that key element distinguishing a victim from a co-conspirator.
'You can oftentimes draw those when you have evidence of direct communications between the two,' Orwig said. 'Wiretaps, for example, are a helpful tool, and in this case there's no indication that they do. I think that does hurt the feds.'
In 2009, Dallas City Council member Don Hill was found guilty of accepting bribes based largely on the use of wiretaps that spanned more than 30,000 recorded conversations.
The Price indictment, unsealed last Friday, lays out what experts including Orwig say is a powerful case against the commissioner.
But Orwig says proving guilt on the part of those paying money to Nealy who then allegedly passed it along to Price will not be as easy as in the Hill case.
'They did have, through those wiretaps, good evidence of the intent on the part of the people paying the bribes and the gratuities, and that's how they did the sorting out,' Orwig said.
U.S. Attorney Saldana on Friday indicated that the investigation is 'not necessarily concluded,' and that 'additional evidence' may surface.
But according to Orwig, it would be unusual for the feds to come back later with additional indictments.