Monday, December 3, 2012

John Wiley Price is delaying criminal investigation with 'avoidable' litigation in forfeiture suit

U.S. government lawyers have responded to Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price's scathing retort in a civil forfeiture case with a heated legal missive of their own.

John Wiley Price
John Wiley Price
In it, they say Price has bogged down the government with his legal tactics in the forfeiture case, thus delaying progress on the criminal investigation of Price.

Price's attorney, Billy Ravkind, has called the government's forfeiture case "nothing more than a sham or a ruse." He has said its only purpose is to try to get evidence the government needs in its criminal investigation of Price.

The government's response, filed late Tuesday, criticizes Price's legal arguments that seek to avoid a default judgment against him. Such a judgment would mean the government could keep the money it seized from him last year during a raid.

"Price now seeks to wrestle out of a crises of his own creation," said the government's filing, authored by assistant U.S. attorneys Walt M. Junker and Katherine Miller.

They argue that Price missed a deadline to file an answer to the forfeiture suit, meaning he doesn't have legal standing to contest it.

Price now expresses "sound and fury" over the government's efforts to seek a default judgment in the case, the government lawyers wrote. At the same time, Price "mocks the delay" he himself created by needlessly litigating the case, they said in the filing.

The government said that before the forfeiture case was filed, Price requested that certain seized property including his business and tax records be returned so he could document his ownership claims. He has yet to properly do so, Junker and Miller wrote.

"Significant portions of the criminal investigation were then delayed, and personnel at the FBI and United States Attorney's Office were re-tasked to expedite copying of the seized records," the government lawyers wrote.

"The Government is not the litigant engaging in gamesmanship," Junker and Miller wrote in the filing.

It is now up to U.S. District Judge Sidney Fitzwater to rule on whether Price can continue to contest the forfeiture of his money.

Price's top assistant, Dapheny Fain, is claiming some of the money agents seized from a safe in Price's home. The government also seeks a default judgment against her.

The seized money includes $229,590 found in Price's home and $230,763 confiscated from a land deal. Price is claiming ownership of $115,000 found in the safe as well as the money from the land sale. Fain has claimed the remaining money found in the safe. Her attorney has said Price was holding it for safekeeping.

Price has denied any wrongdoing, and no one has been charged with any crime. Price and Fain say the money came from legitimate business dealings. The government says it is proceeds of crimes.

By Kevin Krause,

Source: The Dallas Morning News

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