After 13 weeks and 45 trial days, jurors begin deliberations this afternoon in the Dallas City Hall corruption trial, determining the fates of former Mayor Pro Tem Don Hill, his wife Sheila, former plan commissioner D'Angelo Lee, community activist Darren Reagan and car dealer Rickey Robertson. I'm glad the end is finally here, but I'm also a little sad to see all this fascinating drama and intrigue fade away.
Rest assured, Schutze and I will continue to weigh in on the trial and subsequent verdict here and in the paper version of Unfair Park, but it appears as though U.S. District Judge Barbara Lynn will hand this sucker to the jury sometime after 1 p.m., as Victor Vital has wrapped up his closing, and Ray Jackson will finish for the defense using about one hour and 45 minutes. Assistant U.S. Attorney Marcus Busch then has two and a half hours to close out the government's case.
Vital told jurors that the Texas bribery statute says if someone receives money as a result of a vote but is not expecting it, it's not illegal. Referring to the LKC company formed by Ron Slovacek, Andrea Spencer and D'Angelo Lee to redevelop the Lancaster Kiest shopping center, Vital played a wiretap with Sheila telling Don that she doesn't know what money from the LKC is for. He also stressed that she believed that whatever the LKC was doing was good for the city.
Vital wrapped up with a lengthy series a wiretaps of Sheila talking mostly with Don about the work she was doing as a consultant for Southwest Housing and Bright III.
Ray Jackson begins at 8:53 and wastes no time attempting to discredit FBI informant Bill Fisher. He reminds jurors that Housing director Jerry Killingsworth testified that if Fisher told him it was raining outside, he'd have to check himself to make sure Fisher was telling the truth. Fisher also hired the son of former council member James Fantroy to handle security for his projects to ensure they'd get approval, wrote hot checks and complained to the SEC about his competitor, Brian Potashnik.
Potashnik went through a series of "generic" statements during his testimony indicating he was feeling pressure, Jackson says, but wasn't able to explain where it was coming from. It was former Mayor Laura Miller, he claims, who testified that former council member Leo Chaney was the source of Potashnik's pressure.
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Jackson says the prosecution has tried to tie Lee and Hill at the hips: "If D'Angelo said something, by golly, Don had to know about it." But Jackson claims the evidence doesn't support that Hill knew about everything Lee was doing.
He briefly touches on the wiretap between Hill and former DART board chair Lynn Flint Shaw, telling jurors that if Hill had done anything illegal, it would be in the lengthy indictment.
Now we're on to the infamous Beemer. Jackson says jurors are right to ask why Hill didn't just pocket the money. And if he's the kingpin that the government paints him to be, why would he have his mistress give it to him as a retainer?
Jackson is making a great point about the $10,000 cash drop-off at Friendship-West Baptist Church. According to wiretaps, Hill thanks Reagan for his campaign contribution. Then Reagan calls Allen McGill and says Hill thanked him for the contribution. If they're all involved in this grand conspiracy and it's really a bribe and not a contribution, why are they all referring to it as a contribution when none of them know they're being recorded?