Going Through These Things Twice

tuck inside of Hotel Six with the Houston blues again

"Some of the other people, they had them on tape confirming they had accepted bribes. They never had that with Peavy," says juror Goldsmith.

Peavy never took the stand to answer questions about the alleged bribes, and likely would not in future proceedings. "That won't change," Cogdell said. "John is a very decent guy, but he's not articulate. Attanasio's a good prosecutor, and it wouldn't be a fair fight."

Because Peavy did not take the stand, he was not confronted with his own interview with the FBI on May 9, 1996, the day the sting became public. In mostly monosyllabic responses, the former judge denied receiving cash from the Cayman Group. That statement is easily countered by a videotape of FBI agent Bob Dogium presenting him with a box of cigars and an envelope containing $2,500 in the parking lot of Carrabba's restaurant.

Peavy also denied receiving money from Reyes in the May 9 interview. He then made the blunder of visiting political consultant Sue Walden after the sting went public. According to Walden, Peavy blurted, "I took the money," and then produced a roll of fresh bills. Peavy implored Walden to return the cash to the FBI. She refused that request and then advised him to get a lawyer.

Despite all that evidence, Peavy is the most likely defendant to be dropped if the government decides to tighten its presentation and streamline the case. The only way that could happen is if, in exchange for immunity, Peavy confirmed that he received a cash envelope from Reyes during a bathroom conversation at the Warwick Hotel in January 1996. Reyes denied on the stand that he passed the FBI money to Peavy, and claimed he pocketed it himself.

If Peavy were to admit Reyes gave him money at the Warwick, it would go a long way toward breaching the collective defense of Reyes, Castillo and Yarbrough that Ben only talked bribery but never actually carried it out. Since Peavy did the best of any of the defendants with the first jury, the pressure will be on him to ride out a second trial rather than compromise the positions of his courtroom colleagues.

Reyes's attorney, Ramsey, figures the defense team came through the first trial without a conviction by guarding each others' backs, and that now is no time to stop.

"We need to find out how we can do it better, and how we can do it quicker, if possible," he told the post-trial news conference. "We've been together all the way through this, and we're going to hang together."

At least, he hopes so.

Houston Press intern Tobias R. Coleman contributed to this story.

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