DALLAS - John Wiley Price and and his co-defendant were found not guilty on most counts and a mistrial was declared on the remaining counts in a stunning defeat for the government.
Jurors returned the verdict around 11 a.m. Friday after more than a week of deliberation. Price was found not guilty on the biggest charge of bribery and six other conspiracy and mail fraud charges. But the jurors were unable to reach a verdict on the tax fraud and tax underpayment charges.
Judge Barbara Lynn declared a mistrial on those four counts. It will be up to the government to decide whether or not to retry him.
“I’m on my way to work. I’m trying to get to work. Can I get to work?” Price said as he walked out of the courtroom. When asked how he feels about the verdict he said, “We’re okay.”
Price was accused of accepting nearly $1 million in bribes over the course of a decade in the form of money, cars, and land. In exchange, the government argued he got deals for companies doing business for Dallas County.
The defense argued the payments Price received were loan repayments.
“The jury’s verdict is entirely consistent with the evidence,” said Shirley Baccus-Lobel, Price's lead attorney. “The commissioner and Miss Fain are going back to work, hallelujah. Citizens -- they're back doing what they’ve done every day. We're very, of course, pleased with -- but expected -- the verdict of the jury.”
Co-defendant Daphney Fain’s was also found not guilty on all counts of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and lying to the government. When asked how she felt, she said, "I'm blessed."
The verdict was a tremendous defeat for the federal government, which spent several years investigating the longest-serving Dallas County commissioner and collecting millions of documents as evidence.
“First, I want to thank the dedicated women and men of the jury for their extraordinary service during this long and difficult process,” John Parker, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas, said in a statement. “I will be convening with the prosecution team over the next several days regarding where we go from here, consistent with the court's timeline.”
It's the first public corruption case the government has lost in Dallas dating back to 1996.
Price's colleague, County Commissioner Mike Cantrell, told us the county can now move forward without the cloud hanging overhead.
He said he trusts the jury's decision and did not offer an opinion about whether the feds should retry Commissioner Price on the four deadlocked counts. Cantrell was called to testify by the prosecution. Cantrell is the only Republican on the commissioner’s court.
Democratic Commissioners Elba Garcia and Teresa Daniel both essentially said the jury has spoken when asked for comment. County Judge Clay Jenkins was unavailable for comment because of a personal matter.