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Feds Lose Expedited Seizure Of Cash In John Wiley Price Case

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BJ Austin, KERA

A federal judge has handed Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price and his assistant Dapheny Fain their first win in the legal battle over a lot of cash seized during an FBI raid. The judge denied a motion for an expedited ruling that would have given the government the money. 

An FBI investigation into possible public corruption led agents to Commissioner John Wiley Price’s home almost two years ago.  In a safe, they found $229,000. John Wiley Price and Dapheny Fain each claimed half the money they said was from legal business dealings.

The government argued, in part, that the two could not specifically identify the cash and therefore did not have a valid claim.

Tom Mills is Fain’s attorney.  He says the seizure law being used in this case generally pertains to boats or planes seized by investigators.

“And you can’t go in and have somebody walk into the courtroom and say, hey, that’s my boat, that’s my airplane," Mills said.  "You’ve got to show some reason why you have a valid claim. And then they’re using that on money, and they’re saying she didn’t have, for example, serial numbers and stuff.  It was a difficult fit.”

The government also claimed that Price and Fain missed deadlines to respond and therefore should automatically forfeit the money. Judge Sidney Fitzwater ruled the missed deadlines excusable, and cited the defense concerns about “the government’s very clever use of the civil forfeiture case to prepare its anticipated criminal case.”

So far no criminal indictments have been issued.  The forfeiture case now proceeds to a full hearing.  

Former KERA reporter BJ Austin spent more than 25 years in broadcast journalism, anchoring and reporting in Atlanta, New York, New Orleans and Dallas. Along the way, she covered Atlanta City Hall, the Georgia Legislature and the corruption trials of Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards.