Opening statements in the much anticipated corruption trial for Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price finally got under way Monday and both sides portrayed Price very differently.
The government portrayed price as a man caught up in corruption, greed and lies. Defense attorneys called him a giver, generous, hard-working and said Dallas County is his life.
The government acknowledged the good work Price has done in 30 years of public service, but said in the end it’s about choices the commissioner made when he decided he deserved more than his six-figure salary.
Price is accused of taking nearly $1 million in bribes from businesses in exchange for helping them get contracts with the county.
Prosecutors told jurors this is not going to be a case with bags of cash passed around in a dark alley. Instead they said Price’s longtime assistant, Daphne Fain, and political consultant, Kathy Nealy, provided him cars, cash and land in various ways.
“What did Commissioner Price do with this money? He hid it,” prosecutors said. The federal prosecutors encouraged jurors to follow the money, which they said “flows to greed, corruption and lies.”
Courtroom observer and attorney Nick Oberheiden said the explanation by the prosecutors was compelling.
“There are four federal tax counts in this case and it will be very difficult for the defense to explain why Mr. Price did not recognize this as income or anything of value and why he did not disclose it,” Oberheiden
Price attorney Shirley Baccus-Lobel told jurors the government has been after Price for years and said he has a lot of political enemies. But she did not address in her opening why there was no disclosure on money and other things of value the government says came to him.
Price’s defense attorneys said claims that he was bribed are “preposterous.” They argued he is a giver, not a taker and said he is fiscally conservative in guarding the public purse.
“Price made people made when he fought for racial equality and inclusion across DPD,” Price’s attorneys said.
County administrator Darryl Martin was the first witness and took the stand on Monday afternoon. His testimony was about how contracts are won in Dallas County and the bidding process. He also discussed the mountain of documents he provided to the FBI as they began putting together the government’s case against Price.
Opening statements were set for last week, but they were delayed because a jury member became sick and had to be replaced by an alternate.
The federal trial is expected to last four months. Fain is also on trial, but Nealy will be tried separately.