THE DIXON TRIAL: Backstories and Sidebars 

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From an evidentiary point of view, the key point of Thursday’s second full day of the Roscoe Dixon trial came when the former state senator was seen on a grainy black-and-white video reaching for a stack of hundred-dollar bills -- $1,000 worth – that the FBI had funneled through undercover informant Tim Willis.

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From the point of view of personal drama, the key point probably occurred when “cooperating witness” Barry Myers, Dixon’s former aide-de-camp, was heard on another FBI recording bragging to a special agent masquerading as the E-Cycle entrepreneur “L.C.” that he had helped Dixon cheat on his wife. Neither the defendant nor his wife, sitting in the courtroom gallery, had any idea such a revelation was coming – and it had consequences.

Dixon -- whose demeanor has been under strict control, even when the formal charges against him have been cited over and over -- was clearly concerned, even flustered, when Myers’ statement resounded through the courtoom, and he was just as clearly relieved, later in the afternoon, when Myers retracted the claim on cross-examination by Dixon’s attorney Coleman Garrett.

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From the point of view of post-modern theater, the most significant moment occurred when another FBI recording introduced by the defense was allowed to play a good 30 minutes beyond any apparent relevance to the charges at hand. Most of that was random noise and muffled conversation between Myers and Willis about this and that – political, personal, what-have-you – but the high point came when Willis (who was wired, remember) made a rest-room call, complete with a prolonged and highly audible urination into a toilet bowl.

Titters and outright laughter rolled through the courtoom; even the chief defense lawyer himself, Coleman Garrett, was momentarily convulsed. An overlooked aspect of the affair was that Willis was subsequently heard to flush the toilet. In a federal building where urinals almost routinely go unflushed, this fastidiousness might well have bolstered Willis’ credibility.

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From the point of view of local politics, statements were made on the undercover recordings that may well linger, short- or long-term, to the embarrassment or benefit of various public figures. Very little of this kind of conversation came from either Dixon, who was – with the signal exception of the situation mentioned in Paragraph One above – typically close-mouthed and cautious, or from the more garrulous “L.C.,” whose knowledge of local people was necessarily limited.

But Willis and Myers seemed at times to be involved in a name-dropping contest, and a slew of allegations – some flattering, some not – poured out of their mouths concerning scores of local dignitaries. Among those who came off the worse were state House Speaker Lois DeBerry, who is uncharged in the Tennessee Waltz affair but who, in the recordings heard in court, was constantly being touted by Myers as a potential accomplice in the extortion scam that he and Dixon were subsequently charged with.

State Representative Joe Towns, just now a candidate for Congress in the 9th District, is one of several who could legitimately claim mixed feelings about the way he was mentioned. On the one hand, he was summarily dismissed by Myers in a conversation with “L.C.” as an unlikely partner in the extortion conspiracy. So far, so good. Unfortunately, Myers’ reasoning was that Towns was “crazy,” a “non-entity,” and various other unflattering things – and unfit for the conspiracy on those grounds alone.

On the other hand, another current candidate for office – Republican Paul Stanley, a House member unopposed in his bid for the state Senate – might well use some of the recorded dialogue in his campaign literature. He was “too ethical” to be recruited for improper legislative service on behalf of E-Cycle Management, the sham firm created by the FBI, Myers explained to “L.C.” Stanley – like various other white Republicans cited by Myers – would have to be persuaded that the proposed legislation beneficial to E-Cycle was good “on its merits.”

If approached and offered a financial inducement from the cornucopia of cash “L.C.” came armed with, Stanley would probably wonder, “Who is this nigger trying to give me money?” opined Myers. (The potential use of such an epithet should in no way be attributed to Stanley, even hypothetically, but rather to Myers, whose use of it in conversation -- both as “nigga” and as “nigger” – was profuse. A typical use: “It’s just the niggas who got to be paid.”)

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