With FBI Informant's Credibility in Question, Prosecution Decides It's Laura Miller Time
Moments ago, folks standing outside the Earle Cabell Federal Building and Courthouse got a sneak peek at the prosecution's next witness in the City Hall corruption trial: former Dallas Mayor Laura Miller, accompanied by her husband, former State Rep. Steve Wolens. Finally.
Federal prosecutors continued to gain little traction Wednesday in the City Hall corruption case against former Mayor Pro Tem Don Hill and four co-defendants as the one of the government's witnesses revealed "credibility issues" with FBI informant Bill Fisher, who has yet to testify in the case.
"What has been very helpful to the defense is there hasn't been a single witness that has not in some form or fashion turned into a defense witness," says Victor Vital, who's representing Sheila Farrington Hill.
Jerry Killingsworth, director of the city's housing department, wrapped up his lengthy testimony yesterday, at times expressing frustration and arguing with defense lawyers. He was candid about his relationship with Fisher, labeling him as deceptive and admitting that he had negative feelings about him personally.
"If we would have allowed him, he could have talked for 10 or 15 minutes just on his dislike and distrust for Bill Fisher," says Ray Jackson, Don Hill's attorney. "He was suspicious of the guy. He didn't trust the guy."
Jurors also heard from Suzan Kedron, who worked for Fisher and is partner and zoning lawyer at Jackson Walker -- much like Susan Mead, who jurors heard from on Tuesday along with Killingsworth. Jackson says Kedron's testimony was repetitious considering Mead's statements, but Kedron helped illustrate Fisher's deceptive nature. Most notably, Kedron testified that she did not know that Fisher entered into an agreement with Darren Reagan, which Reagan's attorney, Ted Steinke, proved Fisher initiated.
"They weren't kept in the loop. They were finding out things at the last minute," Jackson says. "Bill Fisher was pulling strings, signing deals and committing to things that they had no idea about. That says a lot about the person's character."
Court concluded Wednesday afternoon with Kedron still on the witness stand, and her testimony is expected to wrap-up in short order before former Laura Miller is called moments from now. Miller's name has been constantly sprinkled throughout the trial, and Vital expects "more of the same" from the prosecution, expecting she'll be used as an example of how politics are done the right way at City Hall. Yet Vital says her appointment of developer Brian Potashnik, who's pled guilty in the case, to an affordable housing task force raises questions about their relationship.
"It was pretty clear to the jury -- and I saw some head nods -- that Potashnik's appointment to this task force benefited him," Vital says of his cross-examination of Killingsworth.
Jackson says Miller and Hill were both politicians with similar goals who advocated for people who supported them, which amounts to business as usual at City Hall. "I hope that at the end of the day when she gets off the stand that the jury's left with the impression that Laura's no different than Don, Don's no different than Laura, neither one did anything illegal and it was just politics."
Doug Greene, attorney for former plan commissioner D'Angelo Lee, downplays the importance of Miller's testimony, but he agrees that she'll serve as a "good comparison witness." Greene expects Miller's failed attempt to remove Lee from the plan commission in August 2005 to be among many topics discussed, and he wishes there would have been an ethics ruling on Lee's behavior then so he could use it now.
"Looking at the facts in this case, I don't think they can even prove an ethical violation on his part," he says.
Greene stresses that Lee was a "new guy" on the plan commission who was trying to do good things. "He may have gone about it -- I don't want to say improperly -- but he may have gone about it not in as straight a line as you'd want him to go about it," he says. "But I think that [Miller] will probably agree, quite frankly, that what D'Angelo Lee was doing was perfectly legal. She may not have liked it -- just like with [former council member James] Fantroy's situation. She may not have liked it, but it wasn't anything criminal."
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