Sunday, July 17, 2011

Trouble tracking heavy hitters in Dallas justice system

The feds have been looking into unspecified and possibly unrelated public corruption allegations involving Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price and Dallas DA Craig Watkins, according to various media reports. FBI agents from the public corruption unit visited the DA's offices this week, and Price was the subject of a recent search warrant seeking evidence related to alleged theft from programs receiving federal funds, a nonprofit with seemingly shady financial records, and other possible offenses. Reported the Dallas News:
The warrants [for Price], written by veteran FBI corruption-unit agent Don Sherman, address possible violations, including:
  •  Theft or bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds.
  • Attempt to evade paying taxes.
  • Fraud and false statements.
  • Structuring transactions to evade reporting requirements.
  • Money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
  • Engaging in monetary transactions in property derived from specified unlawful activity and conspiracy to commit the same crime.
The warrants also said agents are seeking computer data and other evidence dating back to 2001.
Supposedly investigators found more than $100,000 cash in Price's home, which his attorney insists can be explained. There's also been speculation the investigation could relate to Price's role as a power broker on the county bail bond board. Or to his serving as "handmaiden to the Perot family" in opposing a job creating inland port in his precinct. Without question the feds are investigating how it is the commissioner owns more than a dozen luxury/classic cars, many of which were acquired from inmates or otherwise obtained under under odd and questionable circumstances.

The investigation at Craig Watkins' office hasn't been nearly as high profile as that of Price, but the luster has clearly worn off the Dallas DA's rising star. Certainly the Dallas News won't be naming him "Texan of the Year" again (2008) anytime soon, and his days as a Golden Boy among Dallas pols clearly are now clearly behind him, largely for reasons of his own making. Most recently, before the FBI sent their public corruption unit to his offices last week, the former bail bondsman DA had come under fire for failing to collect up to $35 million owed to the county by bail bond companies whose clients never showed up for court. (The amount actually collectible may turn out much lower than that.) But a story today on the public portion of the Dallas News site relates a longer litany of complaints which have been simmering for the last several years, which I won't bother repeating since many of them have been aired on this blog. Watkins rarely appears in public these days, by all accounts, and has cut off contact completely with the Dallas News and most other media to the point that prosecutors are no longer allowed even to confirm the spelling of their names to reporters. Complicating matters, Watkins' top lieutenants all departed the office in recent weeks, an event  more or less coinciding with the oddball decision to stop communicating with the media.

Price is the point person on the commissioners court for the county jail and a heavy hitter in the bail bond business, while Watkins, obviously, is the county's top prosecutor, so these are two of the most important figures in the Dallas criminal justice system who both appear to be in for an awfully rough ride over the next couple of years.


The Homeless Cowboy said...

Well Scott, as a kid who grew up in Dallas in the 60's. Im ashamed of whats going on nowadays. I will however say even in the 70's anybody who was arrested was pretty much doomed to prison unless you had Charles Tessmer or one of the other pricey attorneys. There was nobody who even cared to look back to see about innocence.

As far as John Wiley and Watson are concerned I dont see any reason they shouldnt be treated just like anybody else, tried by inuendo and publicly disgraces for having been investigated and then publicly shunned for the next couple of years then they can follow in the steps of the great Marion Barry and be elected to office again. Im Proud to be an American but our political system REALLY sucks. Im just sayin.

Anonymous said...

Must be why the three top people in Watkin's army left a few weeks ago. They knew this was coming. Might be why Leppert left his Mayorial position early. Disassociate as soon and as gracefully as they could. I think this is just the tip of the iceberg.