ATLANTA - Channel 2 Action News and the Atlanta Journal Constitution have obtained an urgent email exchange between an important figure in the Atlanta bribery investigation and her attorney – just weeks before the case surfaced publicly with the guilty plea of Atlanta contractor E.R. Mitchell.
Rev. Mitzi Bickers, a long time business associate of Mitchell, apparently mixed the personal email from her attorney with emails at Clayton County, where Bickers is the Chaplain of the Sheriff’s Department.
The Dec. 22 and Jan. 9 exchange between Bickers and attorney Carl Lietz was released after the AJC requested Bickers’ Clayton County emails under the Open Records Act. Those same emails had been provided to federal investigators.
The emails also include Ted Robertson, a retired IRS agent, who is apparently working on Bickers’ defense team.
The emails reveal that federal prosecutors were seeking bank statements, including deposit slips and cancelled checks, records of payments to her political consulting company, records of income from the church where Bickers is a pastor and records related to the payoff of her Jonesboro home.
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Real estate records show that Bickers made a $524,000 down payment on her Lake Spivey home in 2011 and paid off the rest of the mortgage in less than a year. The purchase price of the home was $775,000.
Lietz, who is a criminal defense attorney, emailed Bickers on Dec. 22, 2016, with these instructions from Robertson: “We are at a critical time in responding to the Government. We need to invest the time and effort to researching and scheduling Mitzi’s income sources and preparing to pushback and/or defend what has happened.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Atlanta announced Jan. 17 that E.R. Mitchell would be charged with conspiracy to commit bribery and money-laundering.
A week later, Mitchell pleaded guilty to paying more than a million dollars in bribes to an unnamed City of Atlanta official in order to win city contracts between January 2010 and August 2015.
A second contractor, Charles Richards, later pleaded guilty to paying $185,000 in bribes to win city contracts.
He also admitted that the money went to unnamed city officials.
Both men agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors, but neither has publicly identified the city employees to whom they paid the alleged bribes
Bickers role in connection to the investigation became apparent when Mayor Kasim Reed released more than a million pages of documents that federal prosecutors had subpoenaed for their investigation. The city provided more than 200 boxes of Bickers-related documents in response to the federal subpoena. Among the documents was the August 2016 federal grand jury subpoena for Bickers’ records. However, federal prosecutors have declined to answer questions about their interest in Bickers.
Lietz told the AJC that he is unable to comment on the email because it is a privileged conversation. An attorney for Clayton County demanded that the AJC return the emails, but the AJC and Channel 2 declined to do so after consulting with legal counsel.
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