I will miss some of this morning's testimony in the City Hall corruption case, because this is the day of the Observer's weekly story meeting. But based on what has happened already in court, a certain summary or caution is appropriate.
Yesterday's surveillance tapes played for the jury were exculpatory of former city council member Don Hill and former plan city plan commission member D'Angelo Lee. There just isn't a gray area about it. In the tapes, both Hill and Lee state explicitly to the government's informant, affordable housing developer Bill Fisher, that they weren't swapping votes in exchange for his hiring their choice of sub-contractors. When Fisher tries to steer them into suggesting a quid pro quo, they bring him up short.
The reasons they give Fisher for hiring historically under-utilized businesses as subs are legitimate, legal and politically plausible.
For some reason, that hasn't come out in much of the media coverage I have seen on yesterday's proceedings.
Could it change today? Absolutely.
If yesterday's tapes were all the government had, they would never have brought charges against Hill and Lee.
But when one side takes the day, I think you have to say they took the day.
The other thing is this: The defense legal team is a fairly mixed bag, but the two lead lawyers, Ray Jackson and Victor Vital, are good. They haven't cross-examined the FBI agent who is presenting most of the tapes yet, but in the remarks they have made so far, they both have come across as sharp and on their toes. Things will turn from day to day - one side up, the other down, like a see-saw. But right now, Hill and Lee, the only public officials in this picture, are up.
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