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DALLAS Two days after longtime Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price pleaded not guilty in federal court to 11 counts of bribery and fraud, he sat in a pew at Friendship West Baptist Church.

'Gotta say this,' said The Rev. Frederick Haynes III. 'I'm really excited to see Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price with us.'

Haynes acknowledged Price's presence at the start of Sunday morning's service. The mega-church boasts around 12,000 members, among them Price, who was both parishioner and talking point for the congregation's senior pastor.

'No one works harder handling his business than County Commissioner John Wiley Price,' Haynes said. 'Even his haters say no one does homework like John Wiley Price.'

Haynes prayed especially for him as Price bowed his head. The pastor also put out a message to the media, which Haynes said has mischaracterized Price during his decades in office as a lightning rod for controversy.

'He was the 'lightning,'' Haynes said. 'The 'rod' is the racism and the bigotry that has characterized Dallas, Texas. You call him controversial, but you don't call racism in Dallas controversial.'

Haynes also referred to conversations he's had about Price with influential African-American political leaders and commentators like Michael Eric Dyson, Julianne Malveaux and Al Sharpton.

The government alleges that Price sold his votes in exchange for money, cars and land. U.S. Attorney Sarah Saldana outlined the charges against Price at a Friday morning news conference.

'That's fairly implicit in the indictment, if not explicit,' Saldana said. 'The taxpayers are the losers.'

But supporters said Price is being targeted for sticking up for his community.

'He has a voice and he's speaking it. A closed mouth doesn't get fed,' said Hank Brown. 'He's doing something. If he wasn't, they wouldn't be talking about him.'

Price had nothing to say when News 8 approached him after Sunday's service. Instead, he talked on his phone, hugged other church members, and even posed for pictures.

'No, I don't talk to Channel 8,' Price said calmly.

But a voice behind the pulpit speaks volumes among those who won't see Price fall from grace without a fight.

'We believe in justice and Jesus,' Haynes said. 'Jesus, justice, and John. That's a hot combination.'

E-mail cwade@wfaa.com

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