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John Wiley Price Will Not Be Retried On Any Charges, Federal Prosecutors Say

Update, May 19: Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price will not be retried on any charges related to his case, federal prosecutors announced Friday. Last month, 67-year-old Price was found not guilty on seven of 11 counts.

Prosecutors are also dropping their case against political consultant Kathy Nealy, Price's longtime associate who was accused of bribing him.

In a statement, U.S. Attorney John Parker said he's disappointed in the outcome of the case, but his responsibility is "larger than the consideration of my subjective views."  He decided that pursuing another trial against Price "will not serve the interests of justice" and the same goes for the pending trial against Nealy.

Here's the full statement from Parker

Although I am disappointed in the outcome of this case, my responsibility is larger than the consideration of my subjective views.  I must objectively consider the totality of circumstances that the prosecution now faces.  Having painstakingly done so, it is my considered judgment that pursuing another trial against Mr. Price will not serve the interests of justice.  I have concluded the same is true regarding the pending trial against Ms. Nealy.
My decision today is fundamentally different than the initial decision to seek this indictment and in no way reflects on the soundness of that earlier decision.  I have information available to me now that was not available at the time of the indictment and could only be obtained through the trial process.  This additional information compels the conclusion that the reasonable, good-faith beliefs we had at the time of indictment regarding our chances for success at trial have been substantially diminished.  
The evidence and facts as known at the time of indictment demanded that this office pursue this case.  However, while it is our responsibility to seek justice when presented with such evidence, it is never our responsibility to secure a conviction at all costs. 
I am extremely proud of the dedicated prosecutors and agents who worked tirelessly on these matters for many years.  These public servants discharged their duties with the utmost integrity and never shrunk from the challenges inherent in what everyone knew was going to be a difficult and polarizing trial. 

Story from trial verdict on Friday, April 28

The jury in the federal corruption trial of John Wiley Price has found the longtime Dallas County Commissioner not guilty on seven of 11 counts, including bribery and mail fraud. The jury was deadlocked on the other four counts, related to tax returns. His longtime assistant, Dapheny Fain, was found not guilty on two counts. 

Jurors told U.S. District Judge Barbara Lynn that further deliberations would not yield a verdict on tax-fraud charges against Price so she dismissed the jury and ended the trial. Lynn has given federal prosecutors a month to determine whether they will retry Price on the charges that had hung up the jury.

Listen to the KERA radio story.

Price told The Dallas Morning News he was "relieved" by the outcome. "We were prayed up and therefore we didn't have to be preyed on." Following Friday's not guilty verdict, Price said he was heading back to work. His attorney Shirley Baccus-Lobel said he's gone to work before and after every day of the trial for two months.

“We’re of course very gratified at the finding by the jury of no bribery whatsoever," Baccus-Lobel said. "But we’re not surprised at that conclusion in light of the evidence." 

Fain also went to work when she wasn't in the courtroom. As she walked into her attorney’s office a block from the courthouse Friday, her only words were: "I feel blessed.”

Credit Bill Zeeble / KERA News

“You know whatever stress she’s worked under, I’m sure it’ll be a relief," said her attorney Tom Mills.   

Prosecutors may have been feeling something far different, said Tom Melsheimer. He’s the managing partner in the Dallas office of Winston and Strawn, and has worked both sides of big cases.

“There’s no other way to look at this than as catastrophic loss for the government and a case for which they invested tens of thousands of hours and likely millions of dollars in prosecuting,” he said.

Political consultant Kathy Nealy is accused of sending payments to Price. She’s scheduled to be tried separately. Melsheimer says the government’s case against her may now be reconsidered as well. 

In a press release Friday, U.S. Attorney John Parker, who's responsible for federal criminal prosecutions and civil litigation involving the United States in the Northern District of Texas, thanked the jurors for their service and said he will meet with prosecutors to determine "where we go from here."

Here's a summary of charges from The Dallas Morning News. 

Reaction from Dallasites

For decades, Price has been one of the most visible African-American political voices in North Texas. And the black community in Dallas has long been by his side. Many of his supporters say he was unfairly targeted. KERA’s Gus Contreras went to the Martin Luther King Junior Community Center Friday to get reaction from South Dallas residents.

Voices from South Dallas.

Scenes from outside the court

Price was swarmed by reporters outside the Dallas County Courthouse after the verdict. 

Background on the trial

The jury deliberated for eight days and had indicated earlier in the week it was deadlocked on at least one of the counts.

Prosecutors alleged Price accepted nearly $1 million in bribes in exchange for providing insider information and voting in favor of certain projects. He was also accused of mail fraud and tax evasion. Price pleaded not guilty and always maintained his innocence. 

“I’ve been focused ever since and I’m still focused, I’m still servicing my constituents," Price told KERA before the trial. "I have lawyers and I’m OK with that. And like Paul Harvey said, ‘let’s get to the other side of the story.’”

Testimony in the trial began Feb. 27 and jurors began deliberating the case on April 19. Price during the trial was portrayed on the one hand as a hardworking public servant who helped his close friends in need, and on the other as a greedy and corrupt man who enriched himself by selling his vote.

Price’s executive assistant, Dapheny Fain, was charged and tried with Price. Political consultant Kathy Nealy will be tried later on charges similar to Price. Another consultant, Christian Campbell, pleaded guilty in the summer of 2015 and testified against Price in this trial.

Price was charged with 11 counts, including conspiracy to commit bribery and depravation of honest services by mail fraud. He was accused of leaking confidential information on contract bids to the clients of Nealy and Campbell to help these businesses land the contracts. The case covered a period of 10 years. Price was arrested in the summer of 2014.

During the trial, on a few occasions, the prosecution didn't turn over evidence to the defense in time — that caused Lynn, the judge, to express concerns. 

Leading up to the trial, Price continued showing up at Commissioners Court meetings, saying he was as committed as ever to help manage complex county operations — from the jail system to Parkland Hospital.

He ran for re-election last year, easily defeating three Democratic challengers in the spring primary. He then sailed to victory in the fall.

Price has served as a Dallas County Commissioner since 1985.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Tweets from the trial

#JWPtrial Tweets

Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.