By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
The important thing here is this: While all of this was unfolding, Bill Fisher balked. He didn't want to do the contracts with Fantroy. Nealy testified that Carol Reed had to intervene, telling Fisher to get over it and give Fantroy his pound of flesh.
So Reed, who represents the very pinnacles of establishment political power in Dallas, tells Fisher to keep giving Fantroy his juice. We're halfway to my point.
Reed was out of the country during the first half of the trial. But as soon as she got back, she took my call and confirmed she had told Fisher to keep giving Fantroy the contracts.
"All I know is the city attorney ruled on those contracts," she said. "Whatever the city attorney said, that would be my advice."
She said she didn't remember details. "It's been too long ago. I talked to the FBI long before the indictments were even brought down. And I am just not even close to it. I have no desire to get in the middle of it now."
Reed was not subpoenaed to testify in the trial, but for some reason Nealy, whose role seems more passive than Reed's, had to come put her hand on the book. It emerged from her testimony that the government, at first, had believed Nealy might have some legal "exposure"—meaning she could be in trouble over the security guard contracts.
She took care of her exposure by hiring Billy Ravkind, one of Dallas' most experienced white-collar criminal attorneys, to negotiate an understanding with the government. Ravkind confirmed that he intervened on Nealy's behalf.
He said that the deal he won for her was not technically an immunity agreement but more of a meeting of the minds. When the minds met, the minds agreed that Nealy would not be prosecuted if she testified for the government.
All of this was laid out rather oddly and awkwardly by the government when Nealy took the stand. Assistant U.S. Attorney Chad Meacham asked her, "If you knew about these contracts and yet you continued to move forward, what were your concerns about being charged in a criminal case?"
Nealy explained Ravkind's role and said she'd been told she would not be prosecuted.
Who knows why the government brought out the agreement? Usually that's something the defense would do as a way of impeaching her testimony. But Al Lipscomb, a central figure in the city's last corruption trial, was down in the lobby of the federal building that day, telling reporters he had come to watch the "black snitches choir," so maybe Meacham was offering Nealy some cover in the community.
Thus far, we have Carol Reed and Kathy Nealy hip-deep in some kind of deal that has the FBI knocking on their doors. It's knock-knock-knock—that real bad knock nobody wants to hear, no matter what they tell you later.
At this point, the Reed/Nealy scenario goes to another depth having to do with the legal theory behind the government's case in the trial, one of the core concepts of which was a principle called "deprivation of honest services."
Deprivation of honest services is a federal offense that carries a 20-year prison term. James Jacks, the acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas, explained to me that "deprivation" is a relatively new add-on to federal fraud laws, designed to patch a hole left by a Supreme Court decision.
If you are supposed to be working in the interest of the voters who elected you and instead work against those interests and for your own benefit, then you've committed fraud, whether you take any money or not. If you use the mail or a telephone to do it, the FBI may come knocking on your door.
Former councilman Don Hill; his wife, Sheila Farrington Hill; and Hill's appointee to the Plan Commission, D'Angelo Lee, all were convicted of deprivation or conspiracy to commit deprivation, among half a dozen other charges.
Jacks explained to me that the people who offer the bribes are just as culpable under this statute as the ones who take them. He wouldn't talk about Reed and Nealy. Ravkind told me he didn't think the government had enough on Nealy to make a charge stick.
But they did come knocking at Reed's and Nealy's doors. This is a key point. People in Dallas, white and black, rich and poor, pinheaded and round, can talk all they want about how this is the way things always have been done in Dallas. And they do talk.
A central theory and constant refrain of the defense was that the trading of favors and offering of inducements seen in this case was "politics as usual" at Dallas City Hall. I never heard the feds argue with that. They just said politics as usual, by this definition, amounts to fraud and extortion, and the jury agreed with them.
That's something people who do a lot of business at Dallas City Hall might want to ponder.
I have spent the last two weeks talking to people on both sides of the black/white racial divide in this city, and it's amazing how much bad blood there is. The other amazing thing is that the feelings are mostly legitimate on both sides.