John Wiley Price Trial Intensifies With Reluctant Testimony of Commissioner's Art Dealer

Monday was supposed to be a good day for John Wiley Price's federal prosecutors. After a week of largely exhausting financial and procedural testimony, they were finally going to connect jurors with one of the three women central to the indictment against Price. Karen Manning agreed to testify against Price after pleading guilty to a single charge of tax evasion. She took the stand to tell jurors what she remembered about selling portions of Price's collection of African art and how Price might have used those sales to generate $83,000 unreported income.

Turns out that Manning didn't remember much.

Under direct examination from prosecutor Katherine Miller, Manning repeatedly failed to remember even the most basic details about her dealings with Price, according to tweets and reports from journalists in the media holding pen at the federal courthouse. Initially the art dealer was reluctant to even admit that Price sold items through her shop, before Miller showed her photos of the many items Manning marketed as being part of the John Wiley Price Priceless collection.

Eventually, Manning clarified that she received a $45 commission for each of Price's pieces that she sold. Additionally, she said, Price paid her $15,000 for decorating work on his home near Lake Cliff in Oak Cliff. Other than that, Manning said she had very little information about Price's finances.

"You're not here to say you were engaged in some sort of conspiracy with Commissioner Price for him to evade taxes or shield things from the IRS, are you?" Price's lead defense attorney Shirley Baccus-Lobel asked Manning.

"Correct," Manning said. She and Price were just long-term friends who helped each other with business opportunities, according to Manning.

Manning pleaded guilty in 2015 to filing a false tax return. In return for potential lenience with regard to her sentence, she agreed to testify for the feds during Price's trial. Her sentence, which could run as long as three years, will be passed down by U.S. District Judge Barbara Lynn, who is also presiding over the case against Price.

She told jurors Monday that Price helped promote her business to prominent Dallasites, including the Reverend T.D. Jakes, who bought some home furnishings from Manning's gallery, Millennium 2000. At no time, Manning told Baccus-Lobel, did Price reap any financial benefit from the introductions he made.

Testimony in The United States of America vs. John Wiley Price, et al. continues Tuesday at 8:30 a.m.
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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young