Jury selection begins in Mitzi Bickers corruption trial
The federal trial of Mitzi Bickers, a pastor and well-known Atlanta political operative accused of steering contracts to allies in exchange for more than $2 million in bribes, finally starts this morning with jury selection Downtown.
Why it matters: The long-running and wide-ranging City Hall corruption investigation cast a shadow over Mayor Kasim Reed’s second term. Bickers is the first defendant to take their case to a jury trial.
Catch up quick: Prosecutors allege Bickers accepted more than $2 million from 2010 to 2015 to help contractors Elvin "E.R." Mitchell Jr. and Charles Richards Jr. win lucrative City Hall work.
- The indictment alleges that Bickers, who served as the city's director of human services from 2010 to 2013, spent the money on a luxury SUV, two jet skis, a nearly $800,000 home and trips, WSB reports.
In addition to Bickers, roughly a half-dozen other people, including a top aide to Reed and other high-ranking city officials, have been charged. Most have pleaded guilty.
- Shandarrick Barnes, Bickers' acquaintance, pleaded guilty to obstructing justice for throwing a concrete block through Mitchell's dining room window and leaving dead rats on his property.
Bickers’ father was the Rev. Benjamin Weldon Bickers Jr., a longtime friend of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church. Bickers led the church after her father's death and today is a chaplain for Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill.
- Bickers served as president of the Atlanta School Board in the early 1990s, and in 2009 helped Kasim Reed win his first term in the mayor’s office.
- Reed has not been charged or accused of any wrongdoing related to the corruption probe. Last year, his lawyers said federal prosecutors informed them he was not under investigation.
What we’re watching: First, the make-up of the jury. Second, the argument from Bickers’ legal team, which includes Drew Findling, the self-proclaimed #BillionDollarLawyer to such rappers as Offset, Gucci Mane, and Waka Flocka Flame. Her team tells the AP the allegations are false.
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