Valdosta Daily Times

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December 20, 2013

Jury acquits Ga. state lawmaker of all charges

ATLANTA — A jury on Thursday acquitted a state lawmaker accused of illegally claiming mileage and expense reimbursement from the state and will return to his Senate duties.

The Fulton County jury found Sen. Don Balfour not guilty of all 18 felony counts against him. The Snellville Republican was indicted in September on charges of making a false certificate, theft by taking and a count of false statement and writing.

He was accused of illegally claiming legislative expense and mileage pay and double-billing the state and his private employer for some expenses. Balfour’s lawyers didn’t deny that he submitted some inaccurate reports, but they said he didn’t deliberately try to take money from the state and said he was being unfairly targeted for inadvertent mistakes.

Balfour was happy and relieved at the jury verdict, his lawyer Ken Hodges said.

“He’s had a burden that’s been on him and his family for the last 14 months lifted off of his shoulders, which is just fantastic,” Hodges said. “He’ll be back in the General Assembly in January representing the people of Gwinnett County and the entire state.”

Attorney General Sam Olens said in a statement that he respects the jury but is disappointed in the verdict. Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents found Balfour was reimbursed for expenses he didn’t incur and that there were too many requests for them to be isolated mistakes.

“If those requests had been submitted by an unelected state employee, they would have been prosecuted, and a state senator should not be held to a lower standard,” Olens said.

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