Unintended Consequences, or: How Our John Wiley Price Reporting Helped Birth a Bad Bill

Categories: Get Off My Lawn

SHZ_GetOffMyLawn_TitleImageV2.jpg
Our coverage of the Inland Port scandal in Dallas may yet produce some new federal law. If it does, I don't think it's going to be anything we will be bragging about.

Yesterday Wilonsky posted a 2-year-old deposition he found on the website of embattled Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price. I guess I missed it at the time. It has my own name all over it, but I don't recall ever reading it.

For me anyway -- maybe not for you -- it's more than fascinating reading. I was clenching my teeth and balling my fists all the way through.

Jim_Foster2_Graham.jpg
Photo by Mark Graham
Jim Foster
In the deposition, Price, who is sitting in the room and has to be cautioned to behave himself, and his lawyer Mark D. Johnson are trying to get former Dallas County Judge Jim Foster to spill the beans. They want him to say who has been feeding Foster and/or me information to the effect that Price has been involved in serial shakedowns of people doing business with the county.

Showing Foster a copy of an article by me in the Observer, Johnson asks him under oath, "What are the multiple shakedowns that are referred to in this article, if you know?"

Foster basically tells them to ask Jim Schutze, which they never did. But they did keep going after him in the deposition to find out what he had said to me in interviews.

JOHNSON: "So when you talked with Jim Schutze and you said that there are people who would believe that Commissioner Price may have committed a shakedown -- or something to that effect, I realize those aren't the exact words, you didn't identify..."

FOSTER: "No, sir."

JOHNSON: "... who those persons were?"

FOSTER: "No, sir."

JOHNSON: "And he didn't ask?"

FOSTER: "No, sir. My -- well, no.

JOHNSON: "Did you explain to Jim Schutze how you knew that there were people who if asked..."

FOSTER: "He didn't ask, and I didn't explain."

By the way, when Foster and I spoke, we didn't have to go through the list of alleged shakedowns, because we both knew what was involved.

With a distressing amount of help from County Court at Law Judge Ken Tapscott, Price and his lawyer continue to poke and pinch Foster throughout the deposition to get him to say who's been ratting out our man downtown, Commissioner Price. Luckily Foster has a lot of help from lawyers Ken Barr and Chris Weil, who do an excellent job of nudging Tapscott back toward the general vicinity of the law.

And Foster himself is tough and wily: He never gives up his sources, but he also never backs down from his contention that Price is a thug.

The bad law in this situation comes from the other half of Price's efforts to run down my sources. He also went after Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, who had given me chapter and verse on Price's efforts to force Inland Port developer Richard Allen to pony up 15 percent of his company in exchange for political peace in southern Dallas.

This gets a little complicated. Price was not filing an actual lawsuit against these two. He was using a special provision in Texas law that allows a person to force somebody to give a deposition under oath without filing a lawsuit against the person.

Price tried to subpoena Congresswoman Johnson. She invoked federal law allowing a member of Congress to flip any lawsuit against themselves into federal court. Price's lawyer (who ain't half bad, by the way) argued that what they were doing wasn't a lawsuit, so it wasn't covered by the flip-to-federal law. Johnson could flip a lawsuit against her into federal court, but there was no law allowing her to flip a not-a-lawsuit into federal court.

Like I say: Every little chance you get, just stay away from the law.

In March, 2010, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with Price's lawyer. The court said the Texas law compelling sworn deposition before the filing of a lawsuit wasn't covered by the flip-to-federal law.

Soon after, Congressman Lamar Smith of Texas filed a bill in the U.S. House called the "Federal Courts and Venue Clarification Act of 2011," to change federal law to cover pre-lawsuit discovery actions like the one Price had filed against Johnson. That bill has passed the House and is now before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Me, I don't know. Why am I going to be proud about a law that makes it harder to get information out of federal officeholders by granting them even more protection from citizens?

The whole thing is absurd from the beginning anyway. There was never a lawsuit Price could have filed because he was never libeled or slandered. Nobody -- not Foster, not Johnson, not I -- accused Price of extortion, a crime.

Now that the FBI has raided his offices and home, thanks to this search warrant, it seems possible such a charge may emerge in the future, but the word everybody was using back in the day was "shakedown," not extortion.

Shakedown is a colloquial term describing the general tenor of Price's behavior as a politician and public official. Libel and slander laws broadly and clearly allow American citizens to criticize public officials on political and moral grounds. It's more or less what we fought the British to achieve -- basic liberty.

Price wanted Allen, the Inland Port director, to turn over a 15 percent share in his privately held company and $1.5 million to some Price associates, all named in that search warrant, in exchange for peace. When Allen wouldn't do it, Price went to war against the Inland Port, a massive high-tech trucking, rail and warehousing development.

Price threw every roadblock and monkey wrench he could find into the path of the development, which offered 60,000 good jobs to southern Dallas, which has been, as the Reverend Freddie Haynes put it last night at that pro-Price prayer meeting, the city's "economic toilet" since Reconstruction.

Price poured sand in the toilet, in other words, when his friends didn't get their money.

Look, I don't care about extortion. I'm not a lawyer. I'm not a cop. Let the feds go for that one. What I said, and what Congresswoman Johnson said, and what Foster said, was shakedown.

Shakedown. By that, I think we all meant the same thing -- generally sleazy behavior, a Judas-like political betrayal of his own constituency and a reprehensible sabotage of the clear economic and social interests of his district.

So run that one through the law books, commissioner. We're not calling you a criminal. We're calling you a sleaze and a Judas.

I don't know what to think about the legal maneuver Price was using to get at Foster and Johnson, called a Rule 202 deposition, or about the change in federal law Johnson is trying to get passed to protect herself from Price.

If you read this deposition, it's a transparent attempt to intimidate Foster and force him to disgorge information without incurring the expense and other downsides of a real lawsuit. If you look at Johnson's (Lamar Smith's) proposed new law, it seems like one more row of razor-wire on top of the barricades already protecting a bunch of elected officials who don't need it.

So what's good and what's bad about the Rule 202 thing and the old flip-to-federal-court law and new flip-even-more-to-federal-court law? You know what? I recommend you talk to somebody smarter on that. Me, I don't like anything in the whole deal except for one part: Jim Foster never gave Judas an inch.



Advertisement

My Voice Nation Help
34 comments
Informant
Informant

I've lived in the Dallas area for 26 years. I've watched JWP incite trouble, run his big mouth, go in and out of jail and basically do nothing but start trouble everywhere he goes, all on his black card!

Have you ever witnessed a top political official behave in such an ignorant manner as this idiot and get away with it for so long!!!!!

It's about F&*(ing time! Put this worthless SOB where he belongs, PRISON!

The next few weeks should be very entertaining for all of us, especially if he begins running off at the mouth in typical JWP fashion. I simply can't wait. But unfortunately I don't think he has the balls. He'll  be a good boy now that big brother is here.

Your ass is "FINALLY" history JWP! Start lubing up your back door brother! LOL

BoPeep
BoPeep

Ironic. Maybe this all started with a shakedown, but it will end with a shakeup.

Harriet
Harriet

What a bunch of CYA bullshit from Shootzy. Of course he and Foster meant "extortion" when they said "shakedown," and of course they both knew that's what the other meant. I never thought Schutze would be cribbing plausible deniability from Nixon's notebook, but that's what this crap about "never accusing JWP of a crime" is about.

Diane Birdwell
Diane Birdwell

Wait a minute... I am giggling here.. Are you saying that anyone can depose anyone else at will? Man, so 100 of us could depose J W P, or Tom Leppert, or anyone? Really? This could end up with everyone in depositions for months...

MC90dayWarren_T
MC90dayWarren_T

So much about this just makes me furious.  First of all, I thought Jim Foster was a reasonable man, did a fine job and I was surprised he wasn't re-elected.  But of course! The Democratic party machine black-balled him over the ugly truths he was exposing about JWP, Craig Watkins and the Dallas Constables.  And then, where the hell does a court get off deposing someone that hasn't been charged with a crime?  WHAT? And this judge, Judge Ken Tapscott, behaves as if he is on JWP's payroll!  OHHHH, so angry.  But it will all be ok.  It will take about 2 or 2 1/2 years and JWP will be in the Federal pen just like Don Hill.  And his wife. And D'Angelo Lee.  And Don Reagan.  When will South Dallas leave the Al Lipscombs and the James Fantroys behind?

Dominicide
Dominicide

"By the way, when Foster and I spoke, we didn't have to go through the list of alleged shakedowns, because we both knew what was involved."

Shootz, I am having trouble with this one. Did you once say something like, "oh, fuck that's right Judge Foster, that's the poor guy on Lamar that owned Bernie White's Beer Barn and Car Wash," or, "just to get this right on the broad list of Shakedowns, we're talking about the Allen train wreck, right?" Or, "Oh, yeah, Eddie seems to believe that the Rev. Shit Stains on the Panties of Life had his hand out at the SALT meetings too."

I don't think you are a sloppy reporter. But unless you were bitching about Price over beers and didn't care to nail down a public official, even off the record, on his knowledge of the shakedowns (which quack like extortion), what the hell were you guys talking about? Foster says that you didn't ask. Why?

POLITICO
POLITICO

Major change in coming to Dallas politics, THE HARD WAY!!!!! 

THE ENTIRE LANDSCAPE IS GOING TO CHANGE!!!!!!!!!!

WAIT AND SEE!!!!!!! 

Tad Banyon
Tad Banyon

I don't understand the purpose of the Naked Deposition (that's what I call it, since it isn't covered by a suit). Can I just go depose anyone for any reason whatsoever? 

JimS
JimS

 Part of what we do in the reporting biz is look for the anomalous response. I emailed Parkland Hospital earlier this afternoon asking about reports that the FBI showed up there last night with search warrants related to the Commissioner Price probe. Candace White of the Parkland p.r. staff just emailed me back: “Because of the nature and importance of FBI inquiries, we would not be at liberty to disclose the existence or non-existence of such an inquiry.” I emailed her: “As important as they may be, it's easy to deny them if they have not happened. I must take this email as your decision not to deny.” Me, I smell smoke.

Deep Throat
Deep Throat

(muffled voice) "I wonder if shakedown refusals were the reason that D County prevented Jerry's stadium from being built in Dallas" 

Deep Throat
Deep Throat

(muffled voice) "I wonder if shakedown refusals were the reason that D County prevented Jerry's stadium from being built in Dallas" 

Ardy
Ardy

Why is EBJ going to such lengths to avoid Price? 

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

Reading that deposition was chilling. Why was Judge Tapscott even present? It really seemed as if Tapscott was acting almost as an extension of Price's legal team--- and the whole thing seemed like a fishing expedition to figure out how much info the Feds had on Price and to identify their source.

Tapscott doesn't come out of this looking very good.

Mike
Mike

We only have 535 legislators for a nation of 300 million people and they already have a special status in the US Constitution.  I don't have a problem with a Federal judge making the determination on whether every Tom, Dick, Harry, or John can bother them with legal action.  Particularly if the alleged harm is something said about another politician.

Uppercase Matt
Uppercase Matt

Favorite question and answer -- "When did you [Foster] last talk to the FBI?".  Foster: "Ten minutes ago."

P1Steven
P1Steven

BTW What does Jim Foster have to say about the FBI Raid? I'm going to guess he partied & Dickey's.

Edgar
Edgar

Not sure whether I would distinguish the term "shakedown" from attempted extortion.  Regardless, truth is a defense to libel.

Big_hunter4x4
Big_hunter4x4

JWP has always behaved like a gangsta straight from the hood! Big mouth, talkin shit blah blah blah. The guys an idiot! But, I gotta hand it to him, he's gotten away with it for a long, long time.  DING!!! Hear that JWP? Times up!

cp
cp

I'm not so sure that using the word "shakedown" is libel whereas "extortion" (an actual crime, as it's worded that way, with the actual word "extortion" and not "shakedown") is. It's not a CYA, it's the way the law is worded.

Bill Holston
Bill Holston

the procedure requires a court order, and allege under oath that you anticipate filing a suit or that you seek to investigate a potential claim. The court must find that allowing a pre suit deposition will prevent a failure of justice or the benefit of allowing the deposition outweighs the burden and expense of allowing it.

cp
cp

Seriously? Did you listen to his recording that he taped of his conversation with EBJ (posted this past weekend)? Most of what he said was, "Uh-huh.... Mmm-hmmm.... yeah..... Uh-huh...."

Whodunnit
Whodunnit

He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword............

BCulbreath
BCulbreath

No it was more about Republican Court members did not want referendum on November ballot,Court members wanted site selected prior to vote,lot of issues that Jerry frankly got tired of.Female Judge had not a clue about Sports contract and did not care.Lot of other stuff none of which had anything to do with Laura Miller.

Cujo
Cujo

Maybe that's why Jerry wanted 425M instead of 325M from Dallas.

BCulbreath
BCulbreath

Prices arms are so long ,and into every thing , White power brokers really think he has some super power.They are the ones afraid of him but he uses them to hurt other people.Like DMN making R.Allen look crazy.

JimS
JimS

one of the less important defenses.

Scott Henson
Scott Henson

According to dictionary.com, not to mention my own understanding, the two words are synonyms, see: http://dictionary.reference.co...

If one is libel, the other is. That said, of course, truth is a defense. Plus, if JWP has extra money laying around for legal fees, for now I suspect he'll be spending it on criminal defense instead of filing a bunch of libel suits. Just a hunch.

Ardy
Ardy

Well ya, for obvious reasons. But to introduce federal legislation because of it? 

cp
cp

I think Jim said it was Johnson's legislation by way of Lamar Smith...

Ardy
Ardy

Never mind. I misread. It wasn't EBJs bill. It was Lamar Smith. 

Now Trending

Dallas Concert Tickets

From the Vault

 

General

Loading...