Judge Barbara Lynn, Ms. Punctuality, is 15 minutes late getting the Dallas City Hall federal corruption trial started at the Earle Cabell this morning. Usually she keeps the jury informed about every little blip in court procedure, but today she sits down and fires up the day's proceedings without a fare-thee-well.
U.S. Attorney Marcus Busch starts right in on former Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Don Hill about the role of so-called community housing development organizations, or "CHODOs," in development projects, especially one called Bright Three.
Hill is maintaining his cool. In bullfight terms, this would be the "tercio de varas," where they have to get the bull stirred up for the bull-fighter. Busch plays the part of "picador," circling the bull on horseback and jabbing at this neck with a pike.
Before asking questions having to do with Hill's current wife, Sheila Farrington Hill, Busch asks, "Would you prefer for me to describe her as your mistress at that time?"
"I would prefer that you refer to her as my wife at this time," Hill said.
Busch refers to stuff Hill said earlier in the week in response to questions from his own lawyers to the effect that it was important to involve community organizations from South Dallas. Busch gets Hill to concede that Bright Three is from DeSoto.
Busch plays a tape in which Farrington Hill is recounting conversations she had with the director of Bright Three about whether she or he is making any money. It seems very muddled to me, except that Farrington Hill clearly is telling Hill that she has told the Bright Three guy, James Mack Fulbright, that he must go through her, as his lobbyist, to get to Hill.
She tells Fulbright on the tape, "You're a deal-maker, I'm a deal-maker, we're all deal-makers." On the surveillance tape Farrington Hill tells Hill, "Mack just told me he just got out of jail for two weeks. I don't know, but if I had to guess I would guess the child support people caught up with him."
Hill maintains total composure so far. He is respectful and careful in his responses. When Hill speaks, he turns away from Busch and addresses the jury. This is a trial about whether Don Hill, when he was on the council, pursued the legitimate interests of his constituents, promoting minority business development, or spent his time seeking bribes. When all of this goes to the jury, the jury's personal feelings about him will be very important.
So far, the picador can't make the bull dance. Hill comes across more like Ferdinand, the Disney bull who prefers to sit under a tree and sniff the flowers. I have a question: How should we refer to Don Hill back in 2004 and '05 when Farrington Hill was his mistress? Was he her manstress? I'm focused on the big issues, folks. Back at you later.