The scene could have been lifted from any of a dozen cops-and-robbers movies: Nervous crooks and an undercover informant gather for a secret meeting. The bad guys are suspicious. Someone—they just know it—is wearing a wire. Tension mounts. Things look bleak for the wired-up hero.

Bill Fisher knows that scene. He lived it.

On a mid-January evening in 2005, Fisher, the man who helped the FBI crack the largest political corruption case in Dallas history, sat with former City Plan Commissioner D'Angelo Lee at Lee's rented loft in the South Side on Lamar building. Car dealer Rickey Robertson and con man Jibreel Rashad were there, claiming to be construction contractors. Robertson and Rashad had formed a phony company called RA-MILL just one month earlier, with Lee as a hidden partner. (Rashad, coincidentally, had just wrapped up a mortgage fraud scheme that would eventually land him more than 11 years in a federal prison.)

Before agreeing to become an FBI informant, Bill Fisher says he considered the words
of 18th century statesman and political philosopher Edmund Burke: "All that is necessary
for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
Mark Graham
Before agreeing to become an FBI informant, Bill Fisher says he considered the words of 18th century statesman and political philosopher Edmund Burke: "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
Two stories by former KTVT-Channel 11 reporter Sarah Dodd in September 2003 alerted the feds to the corruption at Dallas City Hall.
Mark Graham
Two stories by former KTVT-Channel 11 reporter Sarah Dodd in September 2003 alerted the feds to the corruption at Dallas City Hall.
Don Hill's former attorney,
Ray Jackson, says if Brian
Potashnik deserves prison time, then so does Bill Fisher.
Mark Graham
Don Hill's former attorney, Ray Jackson, says if Brian Potashnik deserves prison time, then so does Bill Fisher.
Fisher's longtime friend and attorney, John Carney, says, "There's no comparison at all."
Mark Graham
Fisher's longtime friend and attorney, John Carney, says, "There's no comparison at all."

Fisher, whose business was using federal tax credits and tax-exempt bonds to build apartments for low-income tenants, needed city council support for a new project, and Lee claimed he could help him secure a vote from Mayor Pro Tem Don Hill.

First, Lee wanted money.

That's why Fisher had a tiny video camera attached to his lapel. A thick cord ran down his left side underneath his shirt and into his pants pocket to a recording gadget. A switch to turn the devices on and off rested inside a coat pocket. A transmitter, clipped on the outside of his black bag and disguised as a garage door opener, fed live audio to federal agents nearby.

"This wasn't MacGyver," Fisher recalls from his office alongside the Hilton at Lincoln Centre, where the Observer met him for his first lengthy post-case interview in mid-December. "The stuff was cumbersome, obvious."

The four men had previously discussed two options to win Hill's vote and city council approval of a zoning change needed in Hill's district for Fisher's Dallas West Village—a name Lee suggested because he often spent time in Uptown's trendy West Village. The first option would require Fisher to ink a series of contracts with RA-MILL for subcontracting work at several of his affordable-housing projects, including one for $180,000 to install concrete and dry wall at Dallas West Village. Or Fisher could simply write a check for $540,000—roughly 3 percent of the total cost for Dallas West Village. And what work would Lee, Rashad and Robertson perform for all that dough? None.

Fisher balked. The men lacked experience, and they refused to provide him with paperwork he needed to provide to the underwriters of his development loan.

That made Lee angry. He raised his voice and accused Fisher of taping the conversation and asking "incriminating" questions. During the argument that followed, the FBI called Fisher's cell phone claiming to be his son and used code phrases to let him know agents were unsure of his location in the building and the video was about to run out.

"Check his bag!" Lee said, unaware of who was on the other end of the call.

"I had three large guys, certainly fitter and younger than I was, pissed off, yelling at me, pointing their fingers in my face and then searching my bag," Fisher says.

While Rashad rifled through the bag, the feds asked Fisher if he was all right. "Yes. Bye, sweetie," he replied. Rashad found nothing. Fisher spurned the contracts and offered instead, as the feds had instructed him, to simply pay the men off. Lee was suspicious.

"I think that you're trying to entrap me," Lee said before he left the meeting early without resolving the issue. After he left, Rashad told Fisher that Lee was worried that Fisher had been taping him for months. Fisher offered to meet next time in a sauna or swimming pool, but Rashad and Robertson were convinced Lee was simply paranoid. The two sides eventually failed to reach an agreement, and Fisher saw his zoning case delayed by Hill.

The meeting and the apparent payback for Fisher's refusal to pay would eventually become part of the massive federal case that led to convictions for Lee, Robertson, Rashad and Hill along with 10 other defendants.

Today, despite the near-miss during that 2005 meeting, Fisher says he was never really worried that he was in any danger—not with FBI agents sitting on the other end of that transmitter. Still, Fisher wishes that he hadn't had to get so deeply involved in the case. "I don't mean to say that they misled me," he says of the FBI. "It just turned out to be more than we imagined. Perhaps it was more than they imagined."

You might think that by now there would be a Fisher statue at City Hall Plaza, or a least a plaque somewhere. After all, his work helped expose a broad vein of corruption. As a result of his extensive cooperation, Don Hill's sitting in a federal penitentiary in Kentucky for as much as 18 years, while his wife, Sheila Farrington Hill, is 700 miles away in Florida serving a nine-year sentence. Lee received 14 years; Rashad, four years and nine months; and Robertson, three years. South Dallas shakedown artists Darren Reagan (14 years) and Allen McGill (two years), former NFL linebacker and concrete contractor Kevin Dean (two years) and lawyer John Lewis (one year and one day) also were convicted in the conspiracy.

Developer Brian Potashnik, Fisher's one-time boss and his rival developer in a cutthroat competition for federal tax credits, sits atop the list of newly minted felons, and it was the competition between the two men that would eventually bring the whole stinking edifice of bribery and extortion crashing down in federal court.

"Without these developers wanting to gain advantage and/or secure projects in the tax development arena, none of this would have ever happened," says Victor Vital, the former attorney for Farrington Hill. The fact that Fisher walked away from the wreckage and is still in the development business strikes Vital as unjust.

"Even though he was an informing, cooperating witness, Bill Fisher, according to the evidence, was engaging in the same type of alleged criminal conduct as Potashnik," Vital says. "As a matter of fact, the evidence demonstrated that Bill Fisher only became an informing witness because he was bested in his game of bribery by Brian Potashnik."

Fisher insists that his motives were pure when he decided to meet with the feds in November 2004. Fisher may have flirted with crossing some ethical and legal lines in his drive to secure political support for his housing projects, but Potashnik marched right across them. Fisher believes Potashnik's sole motive was to destroy his competitor's business.

Funny thing about those lines, though—at City Hall, they sometimes get a little thin.

Lead Us Not Into Temptation

In an ideal world, where public officials are models of honesty and human beings aren't easily tempted by dollars, the Texas Legislature's and state Department of Housing and Community Affairs' plan to cut back on a glut of one type of government-subsidized housing might have worked just fine.

In this world, particularly those parts of it called Dallas and occupied by Hill, Lee, Potashnik and their colleagues, the state's scheme turned out to be an inadvertent recipe for minting felons—thanks partly to an unwritten city council rule that gives city council members final say in votes over zoning issues and housing projects in their districts.

"One person has absolute power over that development, and that absolute power leads to the potential for corruption," Fisher says.

During 2003 and 2004, the state changed the rules for a program that had created a rain of affordable-housing projects in Dallas, Houston and other large metro areas. Under the program, developers were awarded millions in federal tax credits—essentially discounts on future tax bills—to build homes for low-income tenants. Developers could sell the credits to investors or banks, collect 83 cents on the dollar up front at the time and use that money to help pay for construction. The new rules required city council approval of all projects, awarded points based on letters of support from politicians and community groups and prohibited building more than one housing project within one mile of another in the same calendar year. In practice, the rules meant that if two developers wound up competing on the same turf, the guy with a good friend at City Hall would have a huge advantage.

The change in the program's rules came shortly after Fisher's departure in 2003 from his job as vice president of Southwest Housing Development Company Inc., the affordable-housing development business then owned by Potashnik. (Seattle-based Pinnacle acquired SWH in summer 2008.) Fisher left for more money and a chance to be partners with investor Saleem Jafar, who together agreed with Leon Backes and his Dallas-based Provident Realty Advisors Inc. to form Provident Odyssey Partners LP, putting Fisher in direct competition with his former boss and one-time close friend.

The rivalry was bound to be tough. Potashnik had a sterling reputation as a developer, had won praise from then-Mayor Laura Miller and was a large political contributor to her and other local politicians.

Fisher's history was problematic.

A stout, balding 55-year-old, Fisher grew up in the suburbs just south of Kansas City and attended Southern Methodist University's Cox School of Business, where he earned degrees in finance and accounting. Fisher forged a tight friendship at SMU with John Carney—his across-the-hall neighbor freshman year and Phi Gamma Delta fraternity house roommate who would later become one of his attorneys. After graduation, Fisher worked in the international financial division of Enserch Corp. (formerly Lone Star Gas Co.), before Carney recommended him for a job at Quantum Equities Inc., where Carney worked.

In 1984, Fisher and Carney left Quantum and created a Dallas-based real estate investment company called Equisource Realty Corp., but real estate soured during the savings and loan crisis of the late 1980s. So four years later they established U.S. Savings Associates Ltd. and purchased Bayside Federal Savings and Loan Association in Port Charlotte, Florida. A successful effort to recapitalize the previously worthless bank came to a screeching halt when Congress in 1989 approved a law that effectively reduced Bayside's capital from close to $4 million to around $800,000.

Investors demanded their money back, and when USSA filed for bankruptcy, Carney and Fisher were unable to repay $895,000. Federal prosecutors indicted the pair in March 1994 on charges of making false statements, mail fraud, wire fraud and bank fraud. They were found guilty of all charges a year later and sentenced to seven years and three months each by U.S. District Judge Jerry Buchmeyer. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals eventually reversed the convictions because the prosecution withheld key evidence—an "egregious abuse of government," Carney says—and both men were released in February 1997 after serving 13 months in prison. The government retried the case, and both were acquitted by a second jury in October 1997.

"I'm not bitter about that at all," Fisher claims today. "If I blame anybody, I blame Judge Buchmeyer. He should have given us bond pending appeal. He knew that there were potential issues that would have overturned the case."

Just a month after his second trial, he took a job with Southwest Housing. After learning Potashnik's technique as his right-hand man while SWH established itself as one of the top affordable-housing developers in Texas, Fisher left the company in February 2003, just a few weeks after the Fisher and Potashnik families vacationed together in Florida during Christmas.

"They were upset," Fisher says about Brian and wife Cheryl Potashnik's reaction to his departure. "They didn't want me to leave."

Brian Potashnik sent his father, Jack—who pleaded guilty in 2008 to tax evasion for not reporting about $525,000 in consulting fees he received from SWH—into Fisher's office to find out what it would take for him to stay, but Fisher ultimately proposed a deal that he knew Brian would reject. When he left, Fisher says, there were "hugs and tears."

"Brian and I were friends," Fisher says. "He had nothing to fear from me. I wasn't going to do anything to hurt his family."

Nevertheless, that didn't stop Fisher from playing the same game as Potashnik to push his projects, even if that meant going into business with a sitting city council member in an arrangement that sent up the first whiff of smoke from the corrupt wheeling and dealing smoldering out of sight at City Hall.

How to Win Friends

To get an idea of just how hard it can be sometimes to tell the difference between an illegal act and a merely shady one at City Hall, consider the case of the late James Fantroy, a South Dallas council member who coaxed first Fisher and later Potashnik into using his security company, J.L. Security and Investigations, at some of their projects.

Since Fantroy was profiting from his contracts with the pair, council rules required him to "recuse" himself from any votes or discussions about business either man had before the council. Fantroy couldn't be selling influence if he wasn't speaking up or voting on either man's behalf. Likewise, neither Fisher nor Potashnik could be trying to buy Fantroy, since the councilman was, presumably, sitting mum.

Someone might buy that story, but not Laura Miller, the outspoken champion of City Hall ethics reform. When the mayor heard from Hill about Fisher's deal with Fantroy (Potashnik hadn't contracted with Fantroy yet), she smelled a quid pro quo and let her council colleagues know it at an August 2003 meeting. The council was scheduled to vote on authorizing $15 million in tax-exempt bonds for a Provident project in Fantroy's district. In a closed-door session, then-City Attorney Madeleine Johnson assured council members that Fantroy had already sought legal advice and was told the Fisher security contracts were above board as long as Fantroy left the room and didn't vote on any items that would trigger money finding its way into his pocket.

Fisher says it wasn't until Hill's June 2009 trial that he learned Fantroy was attempting to influence votes on his projects by directing other council members to do his bidding. "The Fantroy contracts were corrupt, and Mr. Fantroy made sure they were corrupt because he did not do what he should have done," he says.

Miller wasn't finished. The ex-Observer columnist persuaded the council to delay the vote and then tipped former KTVT-Channel 11 reporter Sarah Dodd to the story. Dodd, who would receive an Edward R. Murrow Award in 2006 for her series about the FBI's City Hall investigation, recalls Fantroy insisted on defending himself for her September 8, 2003, report even though he was lying in a hospital bed with a tube in his nose and receiving dialysis for advanced kidney disease.

"I came away from that and remember saying to my photographer, 'Council member Fantroy really does not see what's wrong with this scenario,'" Dodd says. "And I think in his heart he did not believe he was doing anything wrong."

Dodd says she was shocked that Fantroy's actions were blessed by Johnson and surprised her story and September 10 follow-up didn't receive much attention from other reporters. "At the time I did those stories, I knew I had something significant," she says today.

Reporters might not have followed up, but the FBI was impressed and soon began to investigate. By fall of the following year, they had help from Fisher. He had already started recording his telephone conversations with some of his City Hall contacts—chiefly Lee. Fisher would eventually testify at three trials, including those for Hill, his wife, Lee and four others.

Still the question remains: How does Fisher justify that contract with Fantroy?

He blames his political consultants.

Fisher says Kathy Nealy, a prominent South Dallas consultant who appeared with him at the August 2003 council meeting, told him weeks earlier that he was using "the wrong security company" and suggested Fantroy's company without disclosing who owned it. (Nealy testified in August 2009 that she didn't instruct Fisher to sign the contracts with Fantroy.) Fisher says he assumed she touted the company because it was minority-owned, and claims his then-partner Leon Backes authorized the contracts. Following Dodd's reports, Backes called for a meeting to discuss ending Fantroy's contracts. That meeting, attended by Nealy, high-powered political consultant Carol Reed and a team of lawyers, persuaded Fisher to stay with Fantroy.

"The brain trust, as I refer to it, said, 'You're insane. You can't do it. Your die is cast. You've signed the contracts. There's nothing improper about it. Terminating would make it appear as though they're improper. The man recused himself,'" Fisher says.

Backes dissolved the Provident Odyssey partnership in April 2004, but Fisher and Jafar continued their work under the name Odyssey Residential Holdings LP, where Fisher remains employed as vice president and Jafar is president and general partner. Today, now that the controversy from the federal case has settled down, Odyssey has an affordable-housing development proposed near UT Southwestern Medical Center and plans to build more projects in Dallas.

Fisher says Nealy also vouched for the character of Darren Reagan and spoke glowingly of his organization, the Black State Employees Association of Texas Inc. Reagan would eventually be convicted of extortion for demanding consulting contracts from Fisher in exchange for securing Hill's support, and federal prosecutors would prove that BSEAT was a sham organization set up to shake down local businesses. Reagan was sentenced to 14 years for extorting Fisher. In a separate case in 2008, he also was sentenced to a year in prison for scamming the government by using his elderly mother-in-law as a front to pocket $40,000 in public housing money.

Today, Fisher says he doesn't believe Nealy profited from any illegal bribes, but she definitely steered him in the wrong direction on a couple occasions. "I would have liked to not have been told I was using the wrong security company, and I think she had a duty to tell me that Reagan had a bad reputation and the whole organization was suspect," Fisher says.

Still, did prosecutors cut Fisher a deal on the Fantroy contracts in exchange for his becoming a wire-wearing witness? Nealy, who didn't return phone calls for this story, stated in court that her attorney ensured she wouldn't be prosecuted in exchange for her testimony, but Fisher claims he had no such agreement with the feds. Prosecutors did tell him in late 2008, shortly after Fantroy died, that he wouldn't be indicted. By then, a five-year statute of limitations had passed on the Fantroy deal, Fisher says, but that's beside the point. The fact that he never sought immunity from prosecution proves his hands are clean. "If I or the company had done something wrong, we'd have an immunity agreement," he says. "We're not unsophisticated."

Fisher also points out that his contracts with Fantroy's security company were small change compared with the roughly $500,000 the government alleged Potashnik's company funneled to Don Hill and his wife to secure Hill's support for two Southwest Housing projects.

"A half-a-million dollars versus them making three dollars an hour like a temp company or four dollars on top of somebody else's labor?" Fisher says. "I certainly consider those to be very different on the chart."

The government indicted Fantroy in an unrelated case and offered him a reduced sentence in exchange for his testimony in the corruption case. He rebuffed the offer and was sentenced in May 2008 to 30 days in prison and 180 days home confinement for embezzling more than $20,000 from Paul Quinn College. Fantroy died four months after his release at 71 from kidney cancer.

Attorney Vital says he's always been puzzled by the government's decision not to indict Fantroy. "I don't think I understand the reason why he was not involved except to involve him would lead to a very strong sentiment in the community that Fisher should also be criminally charged."

Once Bit and Twice Shy

Fisher might have been a misled lamb with the Fantroy contracts, but he soon wised up. In early September 2004, Fisher fielded a request to help pay the tuition for a supposedly needy student at Grambling State University. Jehrime Chadwick had run out of money while finishing his master's degree, and D'Angelo Lee asked Fisher to help Chadwick out. Fisher originally viewed it as a charity request and began communicating with Chadwick via e-mail, establishing rules about Chadwick's grades to ensure his money wouldn't be wasted. Since Fisher would be sending checks directly to the school, there was no chance of it ending up in the wrong hands.

Luckily for Fisher and unluckily for Chadwick, one of Fisher's lawyers, Susan Mead, had recently lectured him about not asking enough questions when dealing with public officials. When Lee called to remind Fisher to send about $5,000 for Chadwick's first semester, Fisher asked Lee to have Chadwick confirm that he wasn't related to anyone holding office.

"The first words outta his mouth were: 'Don [Hill] and I haven't done anything wrong,'" Fisher says. "I knew immediately it was corrupt."

Lee told him to tear up the check. Chadwick is Lee's cousin.

One month later, Fisher e-mailed his attorney, now deceased James Murphy, at 12:36 a.m. and asked if his attached list of "Top Ten +1 Brian Potashnik Misdeeds," accusing Potashnik of creating a charity for his own benefit, perjuring himself and reporting illegal tax deductions, should be brought to the attention of law enforcement. Ironically, his second complaint criticized Potashnik for attempting to "improperly influence" Fantroy, claiming he terminated security contracts with him because he refused to kill Fisher's project.

Murphy advised Fisher not to report any of the alleged acts to the authorities.

Potashnik would testify in July 2009 that he nixed the Fantroy contracts because theft had increased at three of his properties and 12 computers were stolen from one of the community centers. When Fantroy told him he'd no longer support his projects, Potashnik said he learned that if he wanted council support, he needed to play ball. Potashnik declined comment for this story through one of his attorneys, Obiamaka Madubuko.

Just 24 days after Fisher's e-mail, Fisher and Potashnik each had three similar developments scheduled for council consideration, all of which lacked support from the city's housing department and were within a mile of their adversary's project, meaning only one of each could be approved by state law. Potashnik had an impeccable reputation and built affordable housing resembling North Dallas apartment complexes. Fisher's projects were also upscale and would have paid property taxes while Potashnik's wouldn't, but he lacked Potashnik's connections and experience. (SWH built more than 60 projects, including 26 in Dallas, before the FBI raided its offices in June 2005.)

So here's Potashnik, a sophisticated developer known all over Texas for his top-notch work, squaring off with Fisher, a relative unknown who wasn't trusted by city housing director Jerry Killingsworth or Mayor Miller, who had appointed Potashnik to a housing task force and sent letters praising SWH throughout the state. Miller, who declined to comment for this story, and Killingsworth voiced doubts at the council meeting about the financial strength of Fisher's company. During their August 2009 testimony in the case, Killingsworth claimed Fisher had "credibility issues," and Miller said, "I thought he was doing something unethical to get support for his projects."

The six projects—three in Hill's district, two in Fantroy's and one in both—were scattered around the poorest and southernmost neighborhoods in the city. The council, led by motions from Hill, unanimously approved two of Potashnik's apartment complexes, and his third was removed from the agenda before the meeting. Fisher's two competing projects were rejected to comply with state law regarding the so-called "one-mile rule," and his third was postponed at Miller's request for a later vote.

Fisher claims he only learned after the investigation that Potashnik had stuffed money into the pockets of illegitimate consultants and overpaid contractors selling Hill's influence, although he had his suspicions in fall 2004. "Frankly, it's hard for me to believe that Brian could be this foolish—that he would ruin a successful business, his family and his reputation forever over these two projects."

After Fisher's two projects were voted down by the council in favor of Potashnik's, Lee started pressuring Fisher in early November 2004 to sponsor Hill's birthday party—for $7,500 initially and then $2,500.

"That's when I went to our attorneys and said, 'This is getting out of hand,'" Fisher says.

Mead and a handful of other attorneys instructed him to report what he knew to the FBI.

Fisher met with FBI Agent Allen Wilson on November 10, exactly two weeks after Potashnik had cleaned his clock and a couple hours before Fisher signed a $100,000 contract with Darren Reagan in the parking lot at City Hall. Under the contract, Reagan supposedly would identify minority contractors for Fisher's third, postponed project. The project was approved by the council, once again led by a motion from Hill, shortly after the contract was signed. Strangely, Fisher never reported Reagan to the feds because he says he believed Reagan to be a legitimate businessman based on Nealy's tight relationship with him (she called Reagan "Velvet") and because BSEAT fund-raisers often had big-name politicos in attendance. Fisher's complaints focused mostly on the Chadwick tuition and birthday party incidents. Wilson "looked seriously disinterested," he says, but two weeks later the FBI contacted him with a proposition to listen in on his conversations.

"They said, 'This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for the FBI,'" he says. "They suspected corruption. They waited for someone to come forward.

"People say, 'You went to the FBI to cover your butt.' Absolutely," he says. "These guys were asking me for money in the middle of a zoning case. They're trying to get me to pay a kid's tuition that was a relative of theirs without telling me they're a relative."

He stresses that's not an admission of guilt. "You can unwittingly find yourself in criminal activity. The rubber meets the road for you when that realization comes [and] you report it to the police."

Ray Jackson, Don Hill's former attorney and Rashad's half brother, contends that the real difference between Hill and Potashnik versus Fisher and Fantroy is that Fisher's projects didn't get approved. Fisher wasn't a hero, but a sore loser.

"I think he was just as culpable, and he shouldn't have been able to get immunity because he told on the other person," Jackson says. "The only reason he told on the other person is because he lost out. Had he not lost out, he would have never reported anything. He would have been doing business as usual."

Game Over

When jury selection for the Hill trial began on June 22, 2009, two of the seven defendants were nowhere to be found. Defense attorneys and the public would learn afterward that Brian and Cheryl Potashnik had caved at the 11th hour, joining five others who had already inked plea agreements with the government. Just hours before the three-month long trial's first day, Brian admitted to bribing Hill and pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery. Wife Cheryl forced his hand 10 days earlier when she confessed to subsidizing the rent of state Representative Terri Hodge, now serving a one-year prison sentence for tax evasion.

"I don't think any of the other defendants, had they chose to plead guilty, could have gotten a federal judge to come up to the courthouse for a plea on a Sunday," Jackson says of Potashnik. "I think that spoke volumes."

Brian Potashnik was sentenced to 14 months in prison, levied a $50,000 fine and was ordered to pay the city $1.25 million. Cheryl Potashnik received two years probation and a $50,000 fine. The sentences prompted Hill's mother and Farrington Hill's daughter to start a petition drive asking U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to reconsider Hill's 18-year sentence and the nine-year sentence issued to his wife.

"Their sentences were a gift from God," Fisher says. "I cannot imagine with their circumstances and what they had done in this case that they could have been anything other than ecstatic."

Former U.S. prosecutor and SMU assistant law professor Jeff Bellin says prosecuting Fisher for any alleged misdeeds and securing a lengthy sentence for the Potashniks weren't major priorities for the feds. Their primary targets were Hill and Hodge. "They're not trying to make sure that everyone who commits a crime is suffering. They're really trying to deter public officials from engaging in corruption."

Fisher says one lesson to be learned from the difference between the Hills' and Potashniks' sentences is the obvious: Guilty defendants should cut their losses and plead. "You cannot go to trial. They're just gonna kill you." But he urges innocent defendants to "fight like hell and never give up," even though he admits there's "no real presumption of innocence" in federal court.

And no one knows that better than him.

Although he refers to the 13 months he spent behind bars for the situation with the Florida thrift as "the biggest disappointment of my life" and maintains that his involvement in the corruption case was more than he'd hoped, Fisher isn't unhappy with the federal government. "The government's system for ferreting out the truth worked for me in both instances, although it took a little longer in the first one than I prefer."

There is, however, one pending issue that Fisher wants resolved. He's seeking $1.8 million for the funds he invested in the two projects that failed to obtain council approval because Potashnik had bribed Hill. So far his request has been rejected in state and federal courts, but he's appealing.

"Our projects were mutually exclusive as a matter of law, so that when he bribed to get his, it immediately and directly—not indirectly, not the ripple in the water—became a rock to our head," Fisher says.

Two defendants—Ron Slovacek and Andrea Spencer—await sentencing for their roles in the corruption case, but Fisher's cooperation ceased at the end of Slovacek's trial in November. Now that it's finally over, Fisher says it's a clear win for his company and the public.

"The Potashniks and all those people were guilty as sin," he says. "It's all been ferreted out, and we helped do it. And no one can ever make the determination that Odyssey was dirty. That isn't the case. That's crystal clear today. We did the right thing. Everyone else did the wrong thing, and they paid the price. We were vindicated and are proud of our assistance."

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6 comments
Bettyculbreath
Bettyculbreath

Good story, both developers are victims ,of Elected Officials greed.I hate Brian crossed the line,I still think he should not have been sent to prison.There are some guilty of much worse deed still in office and doing corrupt deeds daily.

Wharter_56
Wharter_56

Why isn't there an ongoing investigation of the DISD Supt. of Schools, who just happened to misplace $30MM + in budgetary funds?We've yet to hear a peep from the Dallas Morning News or any of the Dallas TV news commentators!

BC
BC

Is the City of Dallas lawyer Madeline Johnson still there? Sounds she was either crooked or incompetent for approving Fantroy's shakedown schemes.

David
David

Coming from someone who was in the conference room when the FBI announced themselves at the Southwest Housing offices, I think Bill and Brian did what was in their best interests at the time. Brian was convinced that the only way to get the projects done was to hand over money, and Bill thought that the only way to get out of his situation was to report. I don't fault either one of these guys for what they did. I know them both, and they are both great guys who, in the end, just want to build apartments for the needy and make some money doing it. What is wrong with that? The real criminals got the longest sentences.

Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

Nope, she resigned in April 2005, two months before the FBI raids.

Guest
Guest

I know them both too. Brian great guy? Yes. Bill great guy? You gotta be kidding. Every time I'm around him I feel like I need a shower afterward he throws off so much dirt.

 
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