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Dallas County Commissioner Gets Taxpayer Funded Defense Attorney in Corruption Trial

A federal judge has granted a request from Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price (D-District 3) for taxpayer dollars to fund the legal defense attorney in his corruption trial.

CBS DFW reported that on Friday morning, March 6, US Magistrate Renee Toliver granted the request to Price who was arrested and indicted last summer as part of a corruption investigation. He has since pleaded not guilty and has maintained his innocence.

According to the Dallas Morning News, this was Price’s second motion for a taxpayer-funded attorney during a hearing and she appointed Shirley Baccus-Lobel. No advance public notice was given about the hearing.

Baccus-Lobel is a highly regarded attorney who served as a criminal chief in the US Attorney’s office in Dallas during the Reagan administration, according to a CBS DFW news tweet sent out this afternoon. It was not yet clear if Price’s existing attorney Billy Ravkind would remain or step aside.

The Dallas Morning News also reported that court documents showed Toliver ruled that Price will have to contribute $80,000 of his own money to his defense and he must pay $20,000 of that before March 15. After that, he must make $10,000 payments every two months until the balance is paid up. Price also must make $500 monthly payments during his trial, which is currently scheduled to begin in January 2016, according to Toliver’s ruling.

In late January, Price requested that the taxpayers foot his legal defense, although US District Judge Barbara Lynn questioned Price’s claims of indigence. Price was not present at the time of the request which was presented by Ravkind.  The beleagured commissioner was at his regularly scheduled Commissioner’s Court meeting.

Lynn was not pleased and made it clear that if Price wanted the taxpayers to pay his legal fees in a federal bribery and tax evasion case against him, he had to show up at the next court date on the week of February 2 ready to answer serious questions about his finances. However, as  quickly as Price made the request for public assistance in his corruption trial, he withdrew the petition in a motion put forth by his attorneys on January 28.

According to the Dallas Morning News, Price actually earns $141,236 a year as a county commissioner. On the day he was arrested in July, 2014, he had $11,000 cash on him yet he claimed he was cash strapped when it came to pay for his legal defense.

The charges against Price are staggering — conspiracy to commit bribery concerning a local government receiving federal benefits; mail fraud , aiding and abetting; conspiracy to defraud the Internal Revenue Service, and subscribing to a false and fraudulent U.S. individual income tax return.

This translates into taking $950,000 in bribes over a decade from businesses seeking county contracts or other approvals. Federal agents seized more than $450,000 from Price in 2011. About half of that was in cash and it was in a safe in Price’s house, the Dallas Morning News also reported.

Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.

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