Well, I had the chance to talk to the former Sheila Farrington for a feature about her husband Don for the paper version of Unfair Park this week. Mrs. Hill says she will not cop a plea, and while I know that’s what all criminal defendants say initially, she sounds pretty convincing. Or, at least, convinced.
She doesn't hedge her bets or concede any mistakes in judgment. Instead, she sticks to her claim of absolute innocence for her and her husband. Declining to go into the specifics of both their cases, Hill instead suggests they’re innocent because they're religious people.
“You will find us in church every Sunday,” she says. “We live by what we believe in.” And of her fellow defendant and spouse, she says, “The Don Hill that I know, my husband, you will never meet a more honest politician. All I know is he’s a very straightforward, honest politician.”
Now, to the good stuff.
Throughout the interview, Hill returned to her strong faith, referring to herself as a “God-fearing woman.” Of course, that opened her up to a very obvious question: What kind of God-fearing woman takes up with a married man? After all, the feds referred to Sheila as Don Hill’s mistress -- a seemingly irrelevant point in a legal case -- and we know that she provided that now-infamous BMW to Hill when he was married to his first wife. So, I asked her as delicately as possible, were you “involved” (that’s a nice, sanitary way to put it, I thought) with Don Hill while he was still married?
I got a "no comment" on that one.
So let’s hope the Hills don’t rely too heavily on the religious card. Fortunately for Mrs. Hill, she has a very capable attorney in the mightily monikered Victor Vital, a former Harris County prosecutor, and you can bet they both will have something up their sleeve if and when her case goes to trial.
For one, Mrs. Hill insists the contract she had with Southwest Housing's Brian Potashnik, who's also named in the indictment, was for legitimate consulting services. The feds portray it as a “sham” designed to funnel money to Don Hill and his friend D’Angelo Lee, but if they can’t convince a jury of that, their case against the Hills and Lee will be severely weakened. (Don Hill will still have to answer to a separate pair of alleged schemes that have nothing to do with Potashnik.)
In any case, Sheila Hill seemed unusually calm throughout our interview. Other than becoming a little irritated at my thinly veiled “mistress” question, she was unflappable. She also seemed assured of victory.
“When you’re innocent, you can be nothing but confident,” Hill says.
If Mrs. Hill made it clear that she won’t cop a plea to testify against her husband, Don Hill can’t rest too easy about his other co-defendants. D’Angelo Lee was the best man at Hill’s wedding, but his troubled background suggests you can’t exactly count on him. As for Darren Reagan, well, we detail his sketchy past in our feature story, but Dallas Blog’s Rufus Shaw, an old adversary of his, puts it more memorably than we ever could: "Reagan is the type of individual where, if his ass is on the line, he’s going to flip and turn the table on whoever he needs to.”
If nothing else, the months leading up to the trial won’t be dull. --Matt Pulle