Defense Rests Case in Price Bribery Trial

DALLAS (CN) – Bolstered by repeated stumbles by federal prosecutors, the defense rested its case Thursday in the bribery trial of Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price after calling only two witnesses.

Price was charged in July 2014 with conspiracy to commit bribery concerning a local government receiving federal benefits, conspiracy to defraud the IRS, six counts of deprivation of honest services by mail fraud, and three counts of subscribing to a false and fraudulent income tax return.

Prosecutors claim Price accepted approximately $1 million in cash, cars and real estate from political consultant Kathy Nealy for supporting her clients on county contract bids. He also allegedly received $200,000 in cash from a clothing store operated by Price’s assistant and co-defendant Dapheny Fain and an art gallery operated by his friend Karen Manning. Prosecutors say Price hid the bribes and failed to report them on state-mandated financial disclosure forms or in his federal tax returns.

Price publicly stated last week he was “going to have to testify” in his own defense, but he never took the stand.

Many of the three dozen witnesses listed by the defense with the court have already testified for the prosecution and have faced cross-examination by the defense.

Price’s attorneys called expert witness Chris Dellinges, a forensic accountant, who disputed prosecution claims Price took profits from Fain’s store, Man Made Sales. Price has steadfastly maintained Fain was paying back loans he made to help her with the store and that he was holding onto over $100,000 for her to keep her from spending it on shopping.

Dellinges testified that prosecutors erroneously added up all of the money Price loaned to Fain, claiming that it was really “the same money rotating over and over.”

“There was not income; it is loans back and forth,” he said. “Fain still owes Commissioner Price.”

The defense also called Assistant Dallas County Administrator Gordon Hikel to the stand.

Hikel disputed prosecution claims that documents Price allegedly turned over to Nealy’s clients were confidential.

The two days the defense presented to the jury contrast sharply with the eight weeks of testimony the prosecution presented before resting its case on Tuesday.

The excessive evidence presented may endanger the prosecution’s case. U.S. District Judge Barbara Lynn chewed out prosecutors for failing to deliver evidence to the defense on at least three occasions, calling the failures “terribly inappropriate and very disappointing.”

Defense attorneys quickly moved for acquittals for both Price and Fain, which Lynn denied. Fain’s attorney, Thomas W. Mills with Mills Williams in Dallas, told Lynn Tuesday he believes there has been “prosecutorial malfeasance and negligence” in the bungling of evidence.

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