In federal court today Ray Jackson, lawyer for former Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Don Hill, has been working on affordable housing developer Brian Potashnik in an attempt to get him to tell the jury that he was forced against his will to plead guilty to bribing Hill. I don't think Jackson moved the ball an inch. If anything, by asking Potashnik open-ended questions, he has given him a forum to make himself look reasonable and truthful.
For example, Jackson has been trying to make something out of Potashnik's having spent millions of dollars on legal fees. What, I don't know. I guess Jackson's thesis is that a man who knew he was guilty wouldn't hire expensive lawyers. I sure as hell would.
Jackson got frustrated because Potashnik wouldn't tell him how much he had spent on lawyers. But I thought Potashnik gave a credible explanation for why he didn't know what is legal fees were - one that would work at my house, anyway. Jackson asked Potashnik, "Out of three of the top law firms in the business, are you telling this jury you did not spend millions of dollars in legal fees?"
Potashnik said, "I don't know."
"For you, spending a million dollars is a drop in the bucket?"
Potashnik explained that his wife is the one who writes the checks: "She controls the checkbook."
Jackson said, "She has a lot of control."
Potashnik said, "She sure does."
Jackson asked him, "Would you agree with me that spending millions of dollars on legal defense is inconsistent with somebody who's guilty?"
But Potashnik gave the same answer he has been handing them consistently over the last two days every time they get too complicated with him: "I am guilty," he said.
"Is it inconsistent with somebody who's guilty...?" Jackson tried again.
"I am guilty."
Jackson slumped his shoulders. "OK," he said.
But he tried one more time. "Mr. Potashnik, you have had more than 1,200 days to tell this court that you were guilty, but you didn't do it. Is that correct?"
"You could have came in and plead guilty for free, couldn't you? You didn't have to spend millions of dollars for that."
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"No, I could have plead guilty Day One."
Jackson did get Potashnik to say he thought his wife was innocent of the charges against her, but Marcus Busch, the prosecutor, got Potashnik to admit he wasn't involved in her plea deal. Now they're talking about the time Don Hill told Potashnik, according to Potashnik, that he would be though of as a racist if he didn't hire the right subcontractors.
Somewhere today I assume Richard Allen of the Allen Group and the Inland Port is fanning himself and whispering, "There but for the grace of God ...." over and over again.
As a wag here in the overflow courtroom said yesterday, Allen isn't charged with a federal crime, "because he didn't know how to play ball." I look at Potashnik, and I think to myself, "This I what doing things the Dallas way gets you."