Prosecutors want to dismiss some charges for former Atlanta official in corruption case

Jun 27, 2023, 12:45 PM | Updated: 1:18 pm

ATLANTA (AP) — Federal prosecutors plan to ask a judge to dismiss convictions for wire fraud and to resentence a former high-ranking Atlanta city official who is currently serving a 14-year prison sentence stemming from an investigation into corruption at City Hall, according to a court filing.

Mitzi Bickers, who served as director of human services under former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and who also worked as a pastor and political operative, was convicted on multiple charges last year. At her sentencing in September, U.S. District Steve Jones said the evidence in the case showed that she was involved in “a deliberate, calculated plan to cheat” Atlanta taxpayers.

Bickers has asked the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse her conviction and send the case back to the lower court for a new trial.

In a filing with the appeals court Friday, prosecutors rejected most of Bickers’ arguments, but they did ask that the case be sent back to Jones for dismissal of four wire fraud charges and a limited resentencing. Since Bickers’ trial, “the law regarding wire fraud has developed significantly,” prosecutors wrote, citing recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings and decisions in other federal judicial circuits.

The wire fraud charges were based on Bickers’ failure to report outside income on disclosure forms while working for the city of Atlanta. But recent court rulings “have rejected wire fraud prosecutions premised on lies which allow an employee to maintain employment and that are only indirectly related to the money or property obtained,” prosecutors wrote in their filing Friday.

Bickers had been sentenced to serve 14 years for the wire fraud counts, 10 years for three money laundering counts, five years for conspiracy to commit bribery and three years for filing false tax returns. Those sentences were all to be served at the same time, so eliminating the wire fraud counts will likely shorten the overall sentence.

Bickers’ lawyers, Drew Findling and Marissa Goldberg, said in an emailed statement that “the government finally acknowledged what the defense has been arguing for years, that the four counts of wire fraud for which she was convicted were completely baseless and contrary to law.” But they disagreed that dismissing those charges and resentencing her to a lesser sentence is sufficient.

“These convictions cannot just be wiped away and excised from the case,” they said. “Resentencing alone would ignore the taint that permeated from these illegal convictions as well as the multitude of other issues that all necessitate a new trial.”

Bickers was the Charles P. Richards Jr. in exchange for more than $2.9 million in bribes for herself and others. Mitchell and Richards, as well as several others, had previously pleaded guilty and been sentenced to prison.

The corruption investigation became public in early 2017 when prosecutors accused Mitchell and Richards of conspiring to pay city officials to get contracts for emergency snow removal, sidewalk maintenance and bridge reconstruction from 2010 to 2015. Over the next several years, a half dozen others were charged, including high-ranking members of Reed’s administration. Reed himself was never charged, but the investigation loomed over his final year in office and his unsuccessful 2021 campaign to return to the mayor’s office.

A 2018 indictment against Bickers said she accepted bribes from Mitchell and Richards and failed to disclose that companies she controlled received payments from the pair while she worked for the city. She also did not declare the income to the IRS and falsified tax documents, the indictment said.

The “pay-to-play” scheme continued after Bickers stopped working for the city, prosecutors said. When a January 2014 snowstorm paralyzed Atlanta, she used her influence to secure a multimillion dollar contract for Mitchell’s company, even though it “owned no snow-clearing or other equipment.”

She used the money for big purchases, like a lakefront home, a 2014 GMC Denali SUV and four Yamaha WaveRunners, and she spent lavishly on travel and personal expenses, prosecutors said.

National News

FILE - A passenger disembarks from Amtrak's Sunset Limited at its final stop in New Orleans, Nov. 2...

Associated Press

Biden administration announces $1.4 billion to improve rail safety and boost capacity in 35 states

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration announced Monday that it has awarded more than $1.4 billion to projects that improve railway safety and boost capacity, with much of the money coming from the 2021 infrastructure law. “These projects will make American rail safer, more reliable, and more resilient, delivering tangible benefits to dozens of communities […]

18 minutes ago

FILE - Sweat covers the face of Juan Carlos Biseno after dancing to music from his headphones as af...

Associated Press

After summer’s extreme weather, more Americans see climate change as a culprit, AP-NORC poll shows

Kathleen Maxwell has lived in Phoenix for more than 20 years, but this summer was the first time she felt fear, as daily high temperatures soared to 110 degrees or hotter and kept it up for a record-shattering 31 consecutive days. “It’s always been really hot here, but nothing like this past summer,” said Maxwell, […]

2 hours ago

Hudson, 7, left, Callahan, 13, middle, and Keegan Pruente, 10, right, stand outside their school on...

Associated Press

More schools are adopting 4-day weeks. For parents, the challenge is day 5

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (AP) — It’s a Monday in September, but with schools closed, the three children in the Pruente household have nowhere to be. Callahan, 13, contorts herself into a backbend as 7-year-old Hudson fiddles with a balloon and 10-year-old Keegan plays the piano. Like a growing number of students around the U.S, the Pruente […]

4 hours ago

FILE - Sydney Carney walks through her home, which was destroyed by a wildfire on Aug. 11, 2023, in...

Associated Press

Residents prepare to return to sites of homes demolished in Lahaina wildfire 7 weeks ago

HONOLULU (AP) — From just outside the burn zone in Lahaina, Jes Claydon can see the ruins of the rental home where she lived for 13 years and raised three children. Little remains recognizable beyond the jars of sea glass that stood outside the front door. On Monday, officials are expected to begin lifting restrictions […]

5 hours ago

Associated Press

Kidnapped teen rescued from Southern California motel room after 4 days of being held hostage

SANTA MARIA, Calif. (AP) — Authorities rescued a 17-year-old boy in Southern California after he was kidnapped and held hostage for four days by captors who threatened to harm him if his family did not pay a $500,000 ransom. The teen was rescued Friday after law enforcement tracked him and his three kidnappers to a […]

10 hours ago

FILE - A hiring sign is displayed at a retail store in Vernon Hills, Ill., Thursday, Aug. 31, 2023....

Associated Press

Why the US job market has defied rising interest rates and expectations of high unemployment

WASHINGTON (AP) — Last year’s spike in inflation, to the highest level in four decades, was painful enough for American households. Yet the cure — much higher interest rates, to cool spending and hiring — was expected to bring even more pain. Grim forecasts from economists had predicted that as the Federal Reserve jacked up […]

11 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Swedish Cyberknife...

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

September is a busy month on the sports calendar and also holds a very special designation: Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.

Ziply Fiber...

Dan Miller

The truth about Gigs, Gs and other internet marketing jargon

If you’re confused by internet technologies and marketing jargon, you’re not alone. Here's how you can make an informed decision.

Education families...

Education that meets the needs of students, families

Washington Virtual Academies (WAVA) is a program of Omak School District that is a full-time online public school for students in grades K-12.

Emergency preparedness...

Emergency planning for the worst-case scenario

What would you do if you woke up in the middle of the night and heard an intruder in your kitchen? West Coast Armory North can help.

Innovative Education...

The Power of an Innovative Education

Parents and students in Washington state have the power to reimagine the K-12 educational experience through Insight School of Washington.

Medicare fraud...

If you’re on Medicare, you can help stop fraud!

Fraud costs Medicare an estimated $60 billion each year and ultimately raises the cost of health care for everyone.

Prosecutors want to dismiss some charges for former Atlanta official in corruption case