John Wiley Price's "Meeting" with Feds Next Week Will Not Be Fun

Kathy Colvin at the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Texas would not confirm or deny the veracity of Kevin Krause's post up now on the Morning News saying the feds have invited Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price in for "a meeting" next week. Price, whose offices and home were raided by the FBI three years ago, is presumed to have been the focus of a federal criminal investigation since the raids.

Price's lawyer, Billy Ravkind, confirmed to Krause that the U.S. attorney had asked Price to come in next week. He told Krause the feds will offer Price a deal, with an indictment hanging in the balance, and Ravkind predicted Price will turn down the deal.

Not that Ravkind doesn't know his client -- he has represented him in many matters over many years -- but it seems a little hasty to be making definitive statements before next week's meeting, which is not a meeting, by the way, more like a scary movie.

I spoke with Matt Orwig, a civil and criminal litigator at Jones-Day, who is a former assistant U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of Texas. He told me how these "meetings" usually roll.

"All U.S. attorney's offices that I have been involved with are about the same," he said. He said a major purpose of these events is to try to put the evidence against the target in front of the target's own eyes, rather than having everything filtered through the target's attorney.

"It's to kind of get an 'Oh shit!' reaction from the defendant," he said. "Sometimes there's a little presentation-type element to it, a PowerPoint showing some of the key documents, playing certain segments of tapes.

"It's going to be very substantive. They're going to say, 'This is what we have.' I think generally when the U.S. attorney's offices do that, it's with an indictment date in mind."

I asked Orwig, "Does the defendant's or target's position get worse if he allows the indictment to happen before there is a deal?"

Orwig said, "Yes."

But he also said he can't imagine everybody walking out of the room next week with a deal inked. He said the government will want a tough verdict, "especially in a high profile case like this and one that has had such a long, extensive and expensive investigation."

But he can't see Price copping to a prison term at the meeting. "I just don't see him going in and saying, yeah, he's going to do prison time. And I don't see the U.S. Attorney's Office saying they will accept anything less than prison time. So it's going to be a fight to the finish."

Whatever room may be available for compromise will have to do with what Commissioner Price can do for the government, Orwig said, not the other way around. He said they will ask Price, "'How can you help us? Is there somebody higher than you that we would love to have as a target?'"

In that case, there could be some negotiation. "Sometimes they will go ahead and say, 'This is the deal we will offer you.' Sometimes they will say, 'If you think there's a way for a reasonable resolution of this, let us know.' And they may have some outlying parameters or something like that."

What does all of that mean? I think it means the people really sweating next week's meeting won't be at next week's meeting. Their meeting is later.

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Jim Schutze has been the city columnist for the Dallas Observer since 1998. He has been a recipient of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies’ national award for best commentary and Lincoln University’s national Unity Award for writing on civil rights and racial issues. In 2011 he was admitted to the Texas Institute of Letters.
Contact: Jim Schutze