Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price's legal troubles are over. Late Friday afternoon, John Parker, the United States attorney for the Northern District of Texas, announced that the federal government will not retry Dallas County's longest-serving elected official.
A Dallas federal jury acquitted him on bribery and mail fraud charges, and was unable to reach a verdict on the tax evasion indictment brought against Price. Price's former political consultant, Kathy Nealy, slated to go on trial later this year for facilitating those bribes, will not be tried, Parker said.
In a statement, Parker said that he believes pursuing Price further on those tax charges "will not serve the interests of justice."
"My decision today is fundamentally different than the initial decision to seek this indictment and in no way reflects on the soundness of that earlier decision. I have information available to me now that was not available at the time of the indictment and could only be obtained through the trial process," Parker said. "This additional information compels the conclusion that the reasonable, good-faith beliefs we had at the time of indictment regarding our chances for success at trial have been substantially diminished."
Over the course of a nearly eight-week trial, federal prosecutors accused Price of accepting almost $1 million in cash from Nealy in exchange for votes and influence on behalf of Nealy's clients, including Ross Perot Jr. Prosecutors accused Price of scuttling the Inland Port, a project that would've brought thousands of jobs to Price's southern Dallas County district, in order to protect Perot's shipping interests near Alliance Airport in Tarrant County.
Jurors failed to respond to prosecutors' largely circumstantial case, however, and U.S. District Judge Barbara Lynn repeatedly called out the U.S. attorneys trying Price for failing to turn over evidence in a timely manner to the defense. In the end, they failed to convict Price on any of the 11 counts against him, sending him back to work at the commissioner's court.
Parker said he still believes it was the right decision to try Price, whom the FBI investigated for more than a decade. "The evidence and facts as known at the time of indictment demanded that this office pursue this case," he said. "However, while it is our responsibility to seek justice when presented with such evidence, it is never our responsibility to secure a conviction at all costs."
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.