by: Richard Elliot Updated:
ATLANTA - For the first time since a 30-count federal indictment on fraud and tax evasion charges, Georgia state Rep. Tyrone Brooks told his side of the story, only he never actually spoke at all.
"He did not break any laws," said Brooks' attorney, former Georgia governor Roy Barnes.
Barnes is representing Brooks free of charge and did not allow his client to speak at an afternoon news conference out of fear anything he said could be used against him in court.
The U.S. Attorneys' Office alleges Brooks solicited close to $1 million in donations, mostly from big corporations like Coca-Cola and Georgia Power, for two organizations, Universal Humanities and the Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials.
They said the money was earmarked for voter registration and literacy efforts, but instead wound up in Brooks' bank account.
Barnes, however, said Brooks never drew a salary from either organization. Instead, he was paid expenses out of those
Barnes said Brooks didn't do a very good job of documenting all those expenses. That, he said, should be a civil matter not a criminal one.
"There is a difference between bad bookkeeping and trying to lock somebody up for 20 years," said Barnes. "Let the IRS file whatever they want. We can try it in front of an administrative law judge, but to indict somebody to lock them up for 10 to 20 years is just ridiculous."
Barnes confirmed that a percentage of the charitable donations went to pay so-called administrative costs, including Brooks' expenses, but declined to reveal what that percentage was.
"The money for expenses were primarily reimbursements for his advocacy of trying to raise enough money to put the programs into effect," Barnes said.
Barnes declined to comment on Brooks' earlier allegation that the federal charges are racially motivated as a result of his efforts to solve the Moore's Ford lynchings from the 1940s.