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Defense Rests Case In State Attorney General’s Trial

March 13, 1985

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) _ The defense rested Wednesday in state Attorney General Jim Mattox’s commercial bribery trial after nine people - including two clergymen, a former Sunday school teacher and a congressman - said he has a reputation for integrity.

″He is the epitome of everything fine and genuine and good,″ said Juanita Dance, 73, a Sunday school teacher at the East Grand Baptist Church in Dallas when Mattox was a teen-ager. ″To me, Jim Mattox is all I’d ever want out of a young fellow.″

Mrs. Dance testified as a character witness for Mattox, who is accused of threatening the lucrative municipal bond business of the powerful Houston law firm of Fulbright & Jaworski.

Prosecutors for five weeks have alleged that Mattox told Wiley Caldwell, Fulbright & Jaworski’s bond boss, he would withhold his required approval of the firm’s municipal bonds unless another of its lawyers stopped trying to question his sister in an oil rights case.

Prosecutors and defense lawyers indicated they likely would make their final arguments Thursday.

All nine character witnesses, the last called by defense attorneys, testified that Mattox has a reputation of honesty.

″He’s totally honest. His enemies and his friends alike agree he’s totally honest,″ said U.S. Rep. John Bryant, D-Texas, who served with Mattox in the Texas Legislature during the 1970s.

″He was one of the few people that would stand up and tell it like it is and go up against the powers that be,″ Bryant said. ″I know few people who’ve shown the courage he has in fighting for the public interest when everybody else is running for cover.″

After his lawyers concluded, Mattox said he had no doubt he would be vindicated. ″I’m very confident in what’s going to happen,″ he said. ″I suspect that the jury’s got a pretty good understanding of what has taken place.″

When he entered the courtroom after lunch, Mattox was given a note by 10- year-old Leigh Rowen of Austin.

″I hope you win the case,″ her note said. ″You’ve been the best attorney general Texas ever had. Keep up all the good work collecting child support.″

Commercial bribery is a felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $5,000 fine.