Week four of Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price's federal corruption trial was a short one. Thanks to two scheduled days off at the end of the week, jurors who have already suffered through three weeks of repetitive government testimony got a break. The testimony they did hear, however, was some of the most interesting of the trial, outlining what makes Price a unique figure in Dallas politics, particularly situated to commit the crimes the Unites States government accuses him of committing.
Ahead of testimony resuming Monday, here's what you might have missed this week.
The ghost of Danny Faulkner appears. — Danny Faulkner is a particularly colorful character in Dallas history. Faulkner, who started his working life as an illiterate house painter, worked his way to the top of the Dallas real estate market before being sent to federal prison in the mid-'90s for making off with more than $100 million from real estate and banking scams. In 1998, he was released from prison because of a supposedly terminal brain tumor. He lived until 2012.
Price is deeply connected to Faulkner, the man he called "Uncle Danny" through several real estate deals and loans obtained through banks owned by Faulkner. That being said, none of the crimes for which Price is now on trial have anything to do with Faulkner, so it's understandable that U.S. District Judge Barbara Lynn became angry with prosecutors when a government witness, FBI Agent Darrell James casually brought Faulkner up during his testimony.
According to reporters in the media holding pen at the courthouse, Lynn ordered jurors out of the courtroom before prosecutor Nicholas Bunch gave a halfhearted excuse for violating Lynn's prohibition against even uttering Faulkner's name.
"I'm the one who decides what the jury hears," Lynn said, shutting Bunch down.
Price's car habit comes back around. — Despite being a notorious cheapskate, Price has weakness for nice cars of both the new and classic variety. That weakness is part of the reason he's on trial this spring. The feds allege Kathy Nealy, Price's former political consultant and co-defendant, bribed Price, in part, with cars that she purchased in her name. Monday, a BMW service manager and Price's former mechanic testified that it was Price who was using and maintaining the cars registered and insured by Nealy. The cars, the government argues, are gifts that Price failed to report on his income tax returns.
The accountant weighs in. — Price's accountant and tax preparer, Russell Baity, repeatedly admitted Tuesday that he did not know about several sources of Price's income, including rental payments, art and real estate sales and a civil court judgement. Price should have told him about the extra cash, Baity told the jury.
"You need to report every dollar you receive on your tax returns," he said.
Baity also cast doubt on the defense's assertion that payments between Price and his executive assistant and co-defendant Dapheny Fain were loans and repayments of loans. Price hadn't told him about any loans, Baity said, despite the fact that the accountant would've needed the information to properly handle Price's taxes.
Mike Cantrell shows us the good, and bad, JWP. — Cantrell, Price's colleague on the commissioner's court for more than 20 years, repeated a common refrain Wednesday. Price, he said, knows more about county business than anyone. That knowledge, Cantrell said, meant that Price had a unique ability to provide inside information to the firms and businesses that were paying Nealy to help them land county contracts.
"Commissioner Price has a network that allows him to have information that typically we don't because a lot of people feed him information," Cantrell said.
Had Cantrell known that Price was taking cash from Nealy in exchange for that inside information, he would've reported Price to the Dallas County District Attorney, he said. According to Cantrell, Price never has not recused himself on a county matter for a conflict of interest since 1995, when Cantrell took office, despite the fact that Price met with several vendors seeking county contracts.
"We shouldn't be meeting with vendors," Cantrell said.
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.