DALLAS (CN) – The star witness in the failed bribery case against controversial Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price was sentenced to probation Thursday, bringing a close to a years-long, high-profile investigation that ended in embarrassing defeat for federal prosecutors.
Former consultant Christian Campbell, 47, of Dallas, was sentenced to 18 months of probation and ordered to pay a $25,000 fine. He pleaded guilty in July 2015 to bribery concerning a local government receiving federal benefits, choosing to cooperate with prosecutors to build a case against Price. Prosecutors recommended Campbell receive a three-year prison sentence in exchange.
Campbell apologized to his family during sentencing Thursday, saying “I have accepted responsibility for my actions,” The Dallas Morning News reported.
U.S. District Judge Barbara Lynn told Campbell the circumstances were “odd” given how he is being punished while the main targets of the investigation were acquitted. She noted how he helped the prosecution’s case and damaged his reputation, saying that “nothing ever dies on the Internet.”
Campbell was indicted in 2014 along with Price, political consultant Kathy Nealy and Price’s chief of staff Dapheny Fain. Prosecutors accused Price of taking over $950,000 in cash, cars and real estate from Nealy in exchange for supporting her clients’ bids for county contracts with his influence, inside information and votes, and over $200,000 in cash from a clothing store operated by Fain and an art gallery operated by his friend Karen Manning.
After a months-long trial this spring, jurors acquitted Price on several corruption charges and failed to reach a verdict on tax fraud charges that federal prosecutors later declined to retry.
Jurors appeared to punish prosecutors for several failures to turn over evidence to the defense in the final weeks of trial, which drew the ire of Judge Lynn. She called the failures “terribly inappropriate and very disappointing.”
The defense capitalized on the mistakes, accusing federal prosecutors and investigators of incompetence and dishonesty. They argued the prosecution’s parade of testimony and evidence lacked a “smoking gun” showing a conspiracy to bribe, and that the case is built largely on circumstantial financial records. Price argued the payments were for loans that he had made and that large sums of cash seized from his home did not belong to him.
Price’s acquittal resulted in the case against Nealy being dropped as well.
Campbell’s attorney, Jeffrey Vaden of Houston, asked Lynn for probation because unlike Price, his client did not receive government assistance for his defense and that he has been hurt financially.
Campbell testified during Price’s trial that Price gave him and Nealy confidential bid information that helped his client, oil services firm Schlumberger, outbid other companies for a $40 million county information technology contract in 2002. He said Schlumberger’s original bid was as high as $70 million before Price gave him information on where the bid ranked.
He testified that Nealy became confrontational if she believed Campbell’s clients were dragging their feet on paying her, often unleashing expletive-filled threats that she “could make things bad for them.”
Campbell said he believed Nealy was paying Price for influence, based on “the way she acted,” and the “comments, threats and suggestions” she made, and that she had the power to cancel contracts if she was not happy.