Opening statements are expected to begin Thursday morning in the federal corruption trial of John Wiley Price.
He’s the longtime Dallas County commissioner who’s accused of accepting nearly $1 million in bribes in exchange for providing insider information and voting in favor of certain contracts. Price has pleaded not guilty and has long maintained his innocence.
Kevin Krause is a reporter with The Dallas Morning News. He’s covering the trial, which could last four months.
What prosecutors might do during the trial: “The prosecution is going to make a pretty basic case, which is that Price accepted this money specifically to help companies seeking contracts from the county. They’re going to allege a pay-to-play system where Price used his influence on the Commissioners’ Court to help [political consultant Kathy Nealy’s] clients for money, which the government says is almost $1 million. The case covers a period of 10 years, where he was allegedly doing this for multiple contracts -- county IT contracts and the Inland Port.”
What Price’s defense team might do during the trial: “During jury selection, his attorney asked some of the potential jurors what they think about racial diversity and minority set-asides for contracts. That will play a role [in the trial.] ... The defense is going to center on minority contracting and the importance of minority set-asides. Price has been a big advocate for that. They’re going to say that Price wasn’t doing this for specific clients but that he overall wanted more minority businesses to be represented.”
Price has boosted the number of contracts for minority-owned businesses: “Price has been a commissioner since 1985 and he basically created the county’s minority contracting system. And he has been pushing for the inclusion of minorities in contracts for years. Now significantly more business from the county is going to women- and minority-owned contracts.”
The role of race in the trial featuring Price, who's black: “The defense will definitely bring it up. It remains to be seen what extent the judge will allow it – certainly Prices’ supporters have, for years, been saying this was a politically-motivated and racially-motivate prosecution. If you look at other political corruption cases in Dallas for the past decade, they’ve all been African-American politicians. The companies accused of paying the bribes are mostly owned by whites and they were not charged -- and that kind of adds fuel to the fire.”
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