Inside his Marietta law office, Barnes spoke on Brooks' behalf and said the state lawmaker, who was indicted by a federal grand jury last week on 30 counts of committing mail, wire, and tax fraud and filing false tax returns, "did not break any laws." He also questioned U.S. Attorney Sally Yates' "discretion" to make this a criminal case instead of a civil tax matter.
"It's simply not a crime," said Barnes, who's representing Brooks pro bono. "You have to have a specific intent to defraud. There's just no specific intent [here]. If he wanted to defraud somebody, he would've created a $200,000 to $300,000 salary and paid expenses on top of that. This is just crazy."
Brooks, who pleaded not guilty on Wednesday and was released on a $25,000 unsecured bond, declined to comment at the press conference. He was flanked by supporters and held his four-year-old grandson, Mateo Mitchell, in his arms as Barnes addressed the media.
Last week, a federal grand jury charged Brooks with misappropriating more than $1 million from two charitable organizations, Universal Humanities Inc. and the Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials. The longtime state lawmaker allegedly solicited donations from companies and individuals and later used those funds to pay for personal expenses such as home repairs, health insurance, and electronic equipment.
When the charges were first announced, he hinted that the government was pressuring him because of his tireless efforts to raise awareness the 1946 Moore's Ford Bridge killings. Brooks said that he and others were "getting close to proving federal involvement in the lynching massacre."
Barnes said Brooks never took a salary from either group and claimed he only used the money to pay for related expenses. He also noted that the money Brooks allegedly stole amounted to somewhere between $40,000 and $50,000 per year. If the lawmaker had simply set up a salary from the beginning, Barnes said, there would be no issue.
"There is a difference between bad bookkeeping and trying to lock someone up for 10 to 20 years," Barnes said.
Gov. Nathan Deal is expected to create a three-person panel in the next few weeks to review the case. Brooks could be suspended from the Georgia General Assembly pending the group's findings.
We're slowly starting to lose count of the Republican candidates vying to run for Saxby Chambliss' Senate seat in 2014.
Now enters Minister Derrick Grayson, a MARTA senior network engineer. The Stone Mountain conservative plans to run on a platform that includes small government, Second Amendment rights, reduction of the national debt, and boosting the economy. He plans to address pretty much the War on Everything, as well. That ranges from repealing all gun control laws for law abiding citizens to legalizing and regulating hemp and marijuana to keeping the government "out of our bedrooms."
"The erosion of personal freedom and liberty as a result of federal policy and legislation is alarming," Grayson said today in a statement. "Instead of encouraging job creation, current policies promote a culture of dependence on big government and welfare programs."
The DeKalb County resident joins U.S. Reps. Paul Broun of Athens, Phil Gingrey of Marietta, Jack Kingston of Savannah, and former secretary of state Karen Handel as official challengers in the 2014 U.S. Senate race. Former Dollar General CEO David Perdue, former Governor Sonny Perdue's cousin, has also formed an exploratory Senate committee.
Grayson, who calls himself "The Minister Of Truth," thinks many "out of touch" politicians struggle to help Americans in need. If elected, he says he would change that.
"The days of self serving politicians and those who seek enrichment by special interest are over," said Grayson. "Americans are capable of making decision for ourselves. We don't need more so-called leaders. We can determine our own destiny. What we need now are strong and principled voices that will stand and represent the will of 'We the People' and who will honor the oath to support and defend the Constitution."
As part of that effort, he wants education policy to be decided at the local level and to give families the choice to opt out of the public school system. "Not every parent wants to push their 3 or 4 year old's off to a government run daycare," he writes about the "cradle-to-career" education system on his website.
Grayson only has nine Facebook fans, which is sad. Join his grassroot network if you inclined to do so.
MARTA officials say yesterday's early morning collision of a bus and train in Decatur that caused traffic slow to a crawl for several hours happened after the transit vehicle got "stuck" on the at-grade railroad crossing.
According to MARTA spokesman Lyle Harris, bus driver Donna McMullen was traveling northbound at the intersection of South McDonough Street and East Howard Avenue with four passengers and the vehicle couldn't move once it passed over the crossing. McMullen, a MARTA employee since 1994, followed emergency protocol and evacuated the passengers as the westbound train approached the stalled bus.
No injuries were reported but the bus suffered major damage, as this photo shows. According to MARTA, the vehicle has no known mechanical problems. McMullen took a mandatory drug and alcohol test and is now on paid leave pending the outcome of the investigation.
Some Decatur Metro commenters yesterday said that yesterday's collision wasn't the first time that a large vehicle has gotten stuck on the tracks - or even the first such crash. Anyone who travels along that road surely knows that the awkward layout of the various crossings can create bottlenecks when a train passes.
Decatur Planning Director Amanda Thompson told CL yesterday that plans are in the works to reconstruct two railroad crossings along College Avenue, including the one where the bus was struck. Those plans include "lowering the height of the intersection" and "four new gate arms to prevent stopping on the tracks and sidewalks." Here's an idea of what that might look like.
Those plans, however, are going through the design approval process at the Georgia Department of Transportation, which Thompson says can take several years.
One couple's day at Atlanta Traffic Court: "One woman had flown to Georgia from another state for her mandatory court appearance, only to be told she would have to reschedule."
Veterans Park, a 1-acre greenspace along West Paces Ferry adjacent to the Atlanta History Center, will open this weekend.
Atlanta City Councilman Alex Wan says he plans to keep pushing his proposal that would give some adult businesses on Cheshire Bridge Road the boot.
ICYMI: CL yesterday was nominated for two Association of Alternative Newsmedia Awards.
1. Tom Simmons at Atlanta Improv Comedy Club
2. An Evening with Quincy Jones & Friends at the Fox Theatre
3. Gourmet Grilled Cheese and Free S'mores at Souper Jenny
4. Beverly Guitar Watkins at Steve's Live Music
CL staff writer Rodney Carmichael has been nominated in the Columnist (Circulation over 50,000) category for his print and online columns about the portrayal of African-Americans in the media, going shopping for guns with his mom, and visiting New Birth Baptist Church in the wake of President Barack Obama's about-face on gay marriage - and Pastor Eddie Long's scandal. Carmichael was part of the team that produced the AAN Award-winning 2010 Music Issue, which featured his oral history about the making of Outkast's "Aquemini."
CL's photo team of Joeff Davis, Dustin Chambers, and Brandon English were named finalists in the Photography (Circulation over 50,000) category for a wide range of photos, including images from our election coverage, photo essay about homeless people living under bridges along the Downtown Connector, and CL's Favorite Places special issue. Here's a gallery of the images we submitted for consideration. Today's announcement marks the fourth year in a row that Davis and CL have been recognized for its photography. (The photo desk won the award two of those years.)
It was a good day for the entire Southcomm family, actually. The Nashville Scene received
four five nominations for its arts features, music blog, staff blog, music criticism, and editorial layout. Davis' photos helped earn CL's sister paper in Tampa a nomination in the Photography (Circulation under 50,000) category. The paper was also recognized for its coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. CL Charlotte's John Grooms is a finalist in the Column-Political (Circulation under 50,000) category. Washington City Paper earned a nomination for its cover designs by Jandos Rothstein. And the Kansas City Pitch is vying for awards in the beat reporting and arts criticism categories.
And we'd be remiss for not applauding the Chicago Reader, a former sister paper led by former CL editor Mara Shalhoup which is now owned by the Chicago Sun-Times' parent Wrapports, for its three nominations.
The winners will be announced on July 13 in Miami.
King Williams didn't set out to make an epic documentary film about Atlanta's controversial 20-year effort to purge the city of its low-income housing projects. It just sorta happened.
Six years ago, he was a Georgia State University junior tasked with coming up with a project for an urban policy and sociology class on metropolitan Atlanta. So he chose to look into one of the great mysteries of his childhood by researching what happened to East Lake Meadows, the former housing project located on the edge of East Atlanta and Decatur, where many of his boyhood friends had lived. "I just remember it being there in Decatur as a child, and at one point it just wasn't there anymore. So I was like, I'm going to do a paper on it." That paper grew legs as he met other Atlanta natives in his class who liked the idea. They decided to get a camera with the idea of shooting enough footage for a two-to-three minute complementary doc. A month later, they had 15 hours of footage. "We were like, we should really try to make this an actual documentary."
Williams today is a 28-year-old graduate with a resume of production experience working under big dogs like Spike Lee and Martin Scorsese, yet he still doesn't consider himself a full-fledged filmmaker. After years of trial-and-error stops and starts, however, he and his original crew of GSU classmates are narrowing in on a release date for their full-length documentary. The Atlanta Way attempts to make sense of all the hairy issues of class, race, and culture that have grown out of the Atlanta Housing Authority's nationally recognized model for decentralizing inner-city poverty. It includes interviews with residents of some of the last housing projects to be demolished in Atlanta (Herndon Homes, Bowen Homes, Palmer House, Roosevelt House, Hollywood Courts, Bankhead Courts), as well as interviews with journalists, social advocates, power brokers, and politicians, including former mayoral candidate Mary Norwood and Kasim Reed, a year before he decided to run for the city's top office.
With a tentative release scheduled for fall in Atlanta, Williams talked in advance about why he struggled to create an uncompromising look at the issue, why "gentrification" is still a dirty word to some, and why he feels Atlanta's sense of culture has taken the biggest hit in the wake of all the change.
This is a topic that inspires so many opposing views, in Atlanta and across the country. Did you set out to make a film that would speak to both sides or is that impossible?
The award, which was established two year ago to honor the San Francisco elected official who was assassinated in 1978, recognizes openly gay elected and appointed public officials who have worked to "empower and inspire members of their communities."
Bell, who says she received multiple anonymous nominations for the award, became the country's first openly gay African-American state lawmaker after winning a special election in 2009.
"When I first ran for office I couldn't bring myself to watch the Harvey Milk Story. It was too overwhelming. Today, I wear his pin on my lapel," Bell said in a Facebook post.
Last November, Bell bested former state Rep. Ralph Long, D-Atlanta, after the two colleagues' districts were drawn together by Republicans. She eventually won and championed some LGBT causes during the 2013 legislative session, including co-sponsoring a bill to prevent anti-gay private schools from receiving public funding.
The Atlanta Democrat will be honored alongside nine other officials including Minnesota state Rep. Karen Clark, Redondo Beach, Calif., Mayor Mike Gin, Cincinnati Councilman Chris Seelbach, and Colorado Sen. Pat Steadman. You can watch the ceremony live at 3 p.m. this afternoon.
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