Former Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings testified Monday as the last government witness in the federal bribery trial of real estate developer Ruel Hamilton.
Federal prosecutors completed their case, and then the defense began the trial. Hamilton is accused of illegal payments to two former Dallas City Council members Carolyn Davis and Dwaine Caraway.
Rawlings spoke about how city government works and one issue in particular, the debate over a sick leave ordinance in Dallas.
Hamilton supported the requirement that all Dallas employers provide sick pay.
Hamilton spoke of his support at a press conference on August 1, 2018, the same day trial testimony showed Hamilton asked for a favor from former City Councilor Dwaine Caraway.
Caraway was meeting with the Federal Bureau of Investigation that day when Hamilton called and arranged to meet with Hamilton the next day at his campaign headquarters office on Cedar Crest Boulevard.
A video of this August 2, 2018 meeting between Caraway and Hamilton was shown as evidence at trial. Hamilton subsequently presented Caraway with a check for $ 7,000, one of the alleged bribes in the case.
Hamilton defense attorney Abbe Lowell argued in court that the money was not for Hamilton’s housing sector and that Hamilton was only seeking Caraway’s support for the sick leave law. Hamilton pleaded not guilty.
During cross-examination of government witnesses, Lowell showed alternative explanations for Hamilton’s alleged bribes and pointed to the circumstances of the timeline of events that the government left out.
At the Dallas City Council meeting on April 24, 2019, where the sick leave law was passed, Rawlings spoke out against it.
Rawlings said at the time that the law had to be overturned by the courts because the state has jurisdiction over the matter, which happened later.
In court on Monday, Rawlings said the sick leave law was a political ploy that could not be enforced.
Former city councilor Scott Griggs, who ran for mayor in 2019 and supported the sick leave law, was a defense witness for Hamilton on Monday.
Griggs said Hamilton’s affordable housing projects are well maintained.
As a member of the city council’s housing committee, Griggs said he also supports a tax credit claim for one of Hamilton’s projects, the Royal Crest Apartments.
Griggs said the state’s tax credit claim was likely to be rejected anyway and that he saw no benefit in publicly opposing Hamilton’s efforts.
A key part of the case against Hamilton is $ 40,000 in alleged bribes to former housing committee chair Carolyn Davis, in part for her support of the apartment tax credit claim Royal Crest.
The project was not approved for a city loan or state tax credits that could have resulted in development costs of $ 2.7 for the Hamilton company.
Davis pleaded guilty to the case but died four months later in a car accident.
Caraway has pleaded guilty to the Dallas County school bus scandal. He is serving a sentence of 4.5 years. Caraway testified against Hamilton last week.
A total of 21 defense witnesses are listed in court records for Hamilton’s trial, which could go on for another week.
Rawlings and Griggs have not been charged with any wrongdoing.