Price/Fain Federal Trial a Lesson in Money and Justice

Jul 15, 2017 by

Image result for Dallas' Tom Mills photos

By Jim Schutze –

Maybe for once I will try to exercise the better part of valor and not wade knee-deep into the El Paso public school cheating scandal, about which I know not one thing except for this: A federal district court judge in El Paso recently tossed federal prosecutors and the FBI out of court, declaring a mistrial because of government misconduct, and one of the defense lawyers who got that done was Dallas’ Tom Mills.

You remember Mills. He was part of the team that won federal district court acquittals for Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price and his assistant Dapheny Fain in April. If you have a really good memory or access to Google, then you may know Mills also won a federal court acquittal in 1996 for the late Dan Peavy, a Dallas school board member accused of taking bribes.

The street wisdom is that once the federal government loads up against you; calls in hundreds of FBI and IRS agents for a high-profile, media-intense, multiyear investigation; and then commits the infinite resources of the Justice Department to the goal of taking you down, you aren’t even toast any more. You’re charcoal.

The El Paso school cheating case isn’t over. In declaring a mistrial two weeks ago, U.S. District Judge David Briones said he would schedule a retrial. But his reasons for killing the current trial were strikingly parallel to problems that beset the federal prosecution of Price and Fain — especially a failure by federal prosecutors to obey the basic laws of evidence.

In any event, although a new trial will follow, the El Paso federal mistrial was a significant dragon-slaying belt-notch for Mills. Not too many lawyers can claim three significant wins against the feds in high-profile public corruption trials.

This all comes to mind in the context of some fresh local chatter this week concerning the Price trial. A federal magistrate judge has recommended that Price and Fain be required to pay almost half a million dollars toward much larger fees that the federal government paid on their behalf to their defense team.

We can say this for sure about the lawyers who won acquittals for Price and Fain: That kind of talent is not easy to find, and it can’t be cheap. That leaves open a legitimate question about who should pay, and we’ll circle back to that in a minute. This much really isn’t up for debate: The only way to dodge a juggernaut like what Price and Fain faced is to hire some really good lawyers.

The federal government always has two powerful forms of leverage it can hold over the heads of defendants, one of which is the sheer mass of evidence it has the ability to gather in a decade long investigation. In this case, the evidence was expressed in terabytes, meaning it was supposed to be beyond comprehension.

Source: Price/Fain Federal Trial a Lesson in Money and Justice | Dallas Observer

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