July 25, 2014

#JohnWileyPrice will finally have to face the music

Our Man Downtown, closer to a new "seat" somewhere?
I know about half as much, at least, about Price's shenanigans with the Dallas Inland Port in southern Dallas and south Dallas County, from my days at Today Newspapers as does Dallas Observer corruption hound Jim Schutze, and even know more about one semi-related incident, connected to the development of the Union Pacific intermodal terminal that spurred the Inland Port idea. Click here for a full list of past blogging by me.

Dallas County Commissioner Price and longtime assistant Dapheny Fain, 52, political consultant Kathy Nealy, 61, and Nealy associate Christian Lloyd Campbell, 44, were arrested and charged with conspiracy and influence-peddling after a long FBI investigation. That said, while the arrests involve alleged business kickbacks, they don't involve strong-arming at the Inland Port, either because that's too far south in Dallas to matter to the Eff Bee Eye, or else because more powerful, unnamed persons (state Sen. Royce West? Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson? others?) make sure that that's not part of the bill of fare.

The Morning News has Price's post-arrest presser here, along with more details of the charges:
  • Conspiracy to commit bribery concerning a local government receiving federal benefits
  • Deprivation of honest services by mail fraud and aiding and abetting
  • Conspiracy to defraud the Internal Revenue Service
  • Subscribing to a false and fraudulent U.S. individual income tax return
The companies involved aren't named, but the News mentions Karen Manning and Millennium K art gallery and Schlumberger. It also talks about his broader "connections." (See below.)

What is named is some of Our Man Downtown's alleged benefits:
The indictment unsealed Friday alleges that Nealy provided Price “the full use of a new Chevrolet Avalanche” approximately every four years and a BMW 645Ci convertible,” making car payments and insurance payments that totaled more than $191,000.

Nealy is accused of secretly funneling almost $200,000 to Price as a “straw purchaser of four pieces of real estate, and handing over about $113,600 in rent payments from a property.

Federal authorities allege that Price and others worked out a complex scheme to conceal bribe payments. Nealy sometimes would transfer money from her bank accounts to Price’s, the indictment alleges, and sometimes she would endorse her checks over to Price.
I'm sure that's the tip of the iceberg. Here's the actual indictment.

See poll at right to weigh in on your thoughts of him getting nailed by 12 jurors or not.

Gromer Jeffers wonders about the constituent angle, even while noting that top non-black political constituents, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins and Commissioner Elba Garcia have both already moved on beyond him. Interestingly enough, while he can mention the likes of Al Lipscomb, James Fantroy and Don Hill as black Dallas City Council members who faced their own corruption charges, West and Johnson show up nowhere in his piece.

Schuetze weighs in with a parlor game angle, saying people around the courthouse are speculating "Who flipped?"

He also does a good job of explaining where Nealy fits in all of this politically:
The federal indictment on display below outlines an alleged bribery scheme in which Nealy and Christian Lloyd Campbell, himself a "consultant" and former Nealy employee, funneled money to Price in exchange for favorable votes for their clients, who had business with the county. Price also is accused of feeding their clients inside information on their competitors for county bids. The indictment says Nealy funneled more than $950,000 in "corrupt payments and benefits" -- cash, land and vehicles -- to Price.

It's Nealy who knows the bigger picture. Nealy has worked for the Perot family interests in the past, for a time occupying a fancy private suite at American Airlines Center when the basketball arena was still in Perot hands. After the raids, that suite became the focus of litigation and an IRS probe. 

Nealy has occupied key positions in national Democratic Party campaigns and, with a few others like recently retired lawyer DeMetris Sampson, has been Price's conduit to the larger world beyond his Dallas County stronghold. If there are bigger bones than his own financial peccadilloes to be found in Price's closet, she would know what they are. Her arrest today, along with an employee of hers, may be viewed with disappointment by people who were hoping the feds had won her over. 

But Kathy Nealy can be complicated. She played an ambiguous role in the 2010 prosecution of former Dallas City Council member Don Hill, sentenced to 18 years in prison for corruption in 2010. She denied on the stand at first that she had been given a plea deal by the feds in exchange for her testimony against Hill, allowing her to escape any shadow of complicity, but then under cross examination by Hill's attorneys she more or less conceded that she and the feds had come to a meeting of the minds.
So, don't be surprised if the feds' indictment of her is a head fake here.

Also interesting that U.S. Attorney Sarah Saldana made them do a perp walk, complete with shackles. That, getting back to Jeffers, may raise some man on the south Dallas street eyebrows. Or it may not. Our Man Downtown may be past his expiration date.

The most recent blog post before this one discusses the feds' invitation to Price to talk out a deal. He flat refused. The link immediately above notes the poor health of his mouthpiece, Billy Ravkind, and makes me wonder how intelligent of counsel JWP is getting.

Per the "past his expiration date," JWP has represented nobody but himself downtown for ages. The top story from the Morning News notes:
Price’s dealings with powerful white business executives also may be revealed in unprecedented detail during a trial. Even companies whose executives were not named as defendants may suffer blowback if the feds can document allegations of influence-peddling and shady transactions.

The search warrants served in 2011 sought records from some big players in Dallas. Those included Dallas developer Ross Perot’s Hillwood Corp., Perot Systems, AT&T, American Airlines and the law firm of Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson.

The search warrants also sought records related to several powerful figures in Dallas’ minority community. Those included State Sen. Royce West, a prominent South Dallas attorney; radio talk show host and political consultant Willis Johnson and DeMetris Sampson, a name partner in the Linebarger law firm, which collects delinquent taxes for Dallas County.
There's our buddy Royce, who was smart enough to keep his skirts semi-clean over the Inland Port.

Oh, speaking of, let's watch the Snooze play false equivalence! Here:
Price, West and Johnson, along with former Dallas Cowboys tight end Pettis Norman, all played some role in efforts to create an “inland port” in South Dallas.

Critics of Price have alleged that he helped torpedo developer Richard Allen’s efforts to build the inland port. The port could have competed directly with Perot’s AllianceTexas development in North Fort Worth.

Hillwood began buying up industrial land in the same area and built warehouses after Allen’s plans faltered.
Those first two paragraphs are the type of typical mealy-mouthed Snooze bullshit that rightfully pisses off the likes of Schutze.

No, the folks named in that first graph? Three of the four definitely worked to torpedo it, evidence would seem to indicate, with West yes keeping his skirts halfway clean, it seems, but not more. EBJ kept hers about 80 percent clean by pulling in her horns early down the road. It was, from what I've seen, Royce West's biggest influence-shaking misstep, and may explain the failure to get the UNT-Dallas area developed — he's still gunshy about deal-making.

Anway, back to the Snooze.

Add to the mealy-mouthedness on the news side the holier-than-thou pontificating of Todd Robberson on the op-ed side. The Snooze will be fine as long as none of the big white folks, like Mayor Mike Rawlings, get brought into court as part of any cleanup, of course. Todd, you really wanna clean up Dallas? Do you support the FBI continuing to investigate Rawlings? Or Ross Is Boss Jr./Hillwood? If JWP had enough to "sell" to turn state's evidence on them, would you support that?

Shit, for that matter, the Snooze could clean up its own op-ed staff and have some actual diversity — true political and class-based diversity, more than it does now.

Trust me, though, folks, that will never happen even by the time Ross Perot Quatorze (XIV) enters the world. The Snooze has advertised 10 or more times for somebody for op-ed work, whether print or online only, in the last decade or so. Has its commentary gotten any more enlightened?

At least all of Our Man's seemingly incorrupt friends are nice, white Republicans, so Greg Abbott can't shoot his mouth off.

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