On July 23 -- the second day of Brian Potashnik's testimony in the Dallas City Hall corruption trial -- prosecutor Marcus Busch played a series of damning wiretaps for jurors. He paused them numerous times, read them into the record and then asked Potashink to confirm if what he'd read was in fact what he had heard.
"We're not making sufficient progress to satisfy me," an annoyed U.S. District Judge Barbara Lynn said to Busch.
It was a particularly memorable moment for me, and I'm sure it was for jurors as well. Dallas had a real-life version of The Wire on its hands, and the government wanted to make sure the message came across loud and clear.
Painfully slow if need be.
Dozens of once-private conversations were heard in the courtroom that day and hundreds more were played throughout the three-month-long trial, but one in particular stood out: exhibit 5732.
On May 14, 2005 at 10:24 a.m., Ron Slovacek called D'Angelo Lee. Lee, you'll remember is the former city plan commissioner serving 14 years in federal prison for his role in the case. Slovacek, a Denton County builder, faces up to 35 years for the three counts he was convicted of today.
Lee's out of breath after finishing up his aerobics class at Bally, which he attended Monday through Thursday from 9:15 to 10:15 a.m. Not to be confused with his evening yoga class.
After the two share an awkward conversation about "pumping up," Slovacek tells Lee that he wants to lower the "tax" on a couple of Potashnik's concrete projects they're trying to land. Without this so-called "tax," he can underbid the other bidders by $150,000, he says.
Very quickly, Slovacek makes it known that Lee is set to make a whopping $200,000 on each project, and Andrea Spencer, who pleaded guilty and whose sentencing date hasn't been scheduled, will bank $50,000.
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At the end of the conversation, I felt dirty. And it was clear to me that Lee, Slovacek and Spencer were all guilty. The 10-page transcript below is worth a read in honor Slovacek, the last of the 14 defendants to be convicted. He'll be sentenced by Lynn on March 4.
Potashnik, who was awaiting sentencing because of his testimony in the Slovacek trial, will be sentenced December 17. His plea agreement limits his sentence to no more than three and a half years, and he also kept the millions he received from the bribes.
FEDERAL JURY CONVICTS BUILDER/DEVELOPER IN DALLAS CITY HALL CORRUPTION CASE
All 14 Defendants Charged in City's Largest Public Corruption Case Have Been Convicted
DALLAS -- Following a two-week trial and nearly one week of deliberation, a federal jury has convicted Ronald W. Slovacek on all three counts of a superseding indictment charging him with felony offenses related to his involvement in a kickback scheme involving low-income housing in south Dallas, announced U.S. Attorney James T. Jacks of the Northern District of Texas. Specifically, the jury convicted Slovacek, 42, of Shady Shores, Texas, on one count of conspiracy to commit bribery concerning a local government receiving federal benefits, bribery concerning a local government receiving federal benefits and aiding and abetting, and conspiracy to commit money laundering. He faces a maximum statutory sentence of 35 years in prison; sentencing is set for March 4, 2011, before U.S. District Judge Barbara M.G. Lynn.
Slovacek was a real estate developer and a principal of RON-SLO, Inc., and Millennium Land Development, LLC, Kiest General, LLC, Kiest Blvd., LP and The LKC Dallas.
The government presented evidence at trial that Slovacek conspired with former Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Don Hill, his wife, Sheila Farrington, then Dallas Plan Commissioner D'Angelo Lee and others, including Andrea Spencer, to use Spencer's minority business certificate to solicit overpriced construction contracts from developer Brian Potashnik. Slovacek's role was to perform the actual construction work on a contract that was awarded to Spencer's firm as a result of Hill and Lee's influence. Lee, Spencer and Slovacek created The LKC Dallas and the above-named Kiest companies, in which Lee's interest was hidden, to purchase and develop real estate with official assistance from Hill and Lee. Each were important to the scheme -- Spencer had the minority business certificate, Hill and Lee brought official influence and Slovacek was a builder.
Both Potashnik and Spencer testified at Slovacek's trial, as part of the terms of their plea agreement with the government. Potashnik is scheduled to be sentenced on December 17, 2010; a date has not yet been set for Spencer. Hill is currently serving an 18-year prison sentence; Farrington is serving nine years; and Lee is serving 14 years.
The case was investigated by the FBI and IRS-CI. It was prosecuted by Criminal Chief Assistant U.S. Attorney Chad Meacham, Deputy Criminal Chief Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah Saldaña, and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Stephen Fahey, Chris Stokes and Leigha Simonton.