Does the Pause in John Wiley Price's Forfeiture Case Mean Criminal Charges Are Imminent?

Ever since prosecutors filed a federal lawsuit last May asking to seize nearly $500,000 of County Commissioner John Wiley Price's allegedly ill-gotten gains, political observers have been waiting for the other shoe to drop. An indictment was a month or two away, tops, it was predicted at the time. Any second, Price would be perp walking right through the doors of the federal courthouse.

Eleven months have passed, and that day still hasn't come. But there are signs that it may soon. According to an agreed order signed last week by U.S. District Judge Sidney Fitzwater and unsealed yesterday (h/t Morning News), prosecutors have agreed to put the seizure on hold "until the conclusion of the parallel criminal investigation and any related criminal case resulting therefrom."

At issue is $230,000 from a property on Grady Niblo Road that Price sold to a developer, and another $230,000 in cash found at Price's home in June 2011, some of which belongs to Price's longtime assistant, Dapheny Fain. The feds argue in the civil court filings that the money was illegally obtained.

The order means the feds can't use the civil case as a fishing expedition to help build their criminal case, which is what Price's attorneys have alleged they were doing. But the fact that Assistant U.S. Attorney Walt Junker agreed to stay the proceedings seems to indicate either that the government is ready to indict or that it's seen the writing on the wall and has opted for a quiet retreat.

Fain's attorney, Tom Mills, certainly wasn't declaring victory. "They've been investigating the case for so long I don't really know what they're doing," he told the Morning News.

We should find out what they're doing in short order. Unless, of course, we don't.