JWP Rally, Making a Judas into a Saint

I hate to say I told you so ... no, wait, that's a lie. I love to say I told you so. A week ago I said in column that we were about to see a lot of high opera in the John Wiley Price FBI corruption investigation. The season opens Saturday with Aida.

As Unfair Park has reported, The National Black United Front, a group many Americans have never heard of, will hold a rally in South Dallas all day Saturday in support of our embattled Dallas County commissioner.

The rally will feature appearances by a host of figures in local and national black politics including Willie Ricks, a civil rights movement figure credited by Stokely Carmichael with inventing the term "black power."

I said in my column that both sides -- the government prosecutors and the lawyers who will represent the inevitable defendants -- have been consulting jury experts. The experts I talked to suggested that shaping public opinion before any trials will be an important part of trial strategy.

And don't think it's only about potential defendants trying to poison the pool, although that's got to be part of it. Remember that one of the big milestones in local corruption history was the trial of former city council member Al Lipscomb, whose conviction was tossed out in 2001 when an appeals court found that the judge himself had messed with the jury pool in an impermissible fashion.

When it comes to the jury pool, everybody's doin' the mess around. That's just how it is.

We know when the Price opera will end, but what tune will she be singing?The rally Saturday clearly will be an attempt to paint a public picture in which Price is bedeviled by white people because he has been too strong an advocate for black people. Price needs potential black jurors to walk into the courthouse on jury selection day with an image of him on a cross burned into their cerebral cortices.

That picture happens to be the opposite of what the feds are investigating. All signs are that federal investigators are focusing on the Inland Port deal, an area where I happen to have done a lot of reporting. So first I have to make the mandatory declaration: Price has not been charged with a crime. I do not personally charge people with crimes, because I do not personally have a badge.

But I can tell you that the story, the journalistic story, is the opposite of what will be told at Saturday's rally. Far from having been too tough and bold in his championing of the black cause, Price's problem in the Inland Port deal is that he played Judas to his own community, selling his constituents down the river for a handful of no-bid contracts.

That's a story you will never hear anybody black telling in Dallas, because nobody black can afford to tell it. So I'll do it. My own accusation is that he's a fake civil rights leader who has betrayed the interests of his own constituency in ways so insidious and enormous that the damage almost cannot be counted.

I always wanted to be in the opera.

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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