by: Lori Geary Updated:
ATLANTA - A panel will decide the political fate of embattled state Rep. Tyrone Brooks.
The high-profile Atlanta Democrat, who is also a civil rights activist, is under federal indictment, accused of taking money from a charity and political organization for his own personal use and not paying taxes on it. Brooks pleaded not guilty in court last month. He maintains he’s done nothing wrong.
By law, Attorney General Sam Olens, a Republican, must sit on the three-person panel that will decide whether Brooks should be suspended from his elected office. On Friday, Gov. Nathan Deal named two Democrats, state Rep. Stacey Abrams and state Sen. Steven Henson, to also serve on the panel.
Channel 2’s Lori Geary caught up with Abrams, who told her, “The entire situation is sad, simply because even an accusation against someone with such a storied career is upsetting.”
Abrams said the decision will be difficult, weighing Brooks’ rights against whether he can fulfill his official duties.
“We have two responsibilities: One is innocent until proven guilty, but the second one is recognizing that when you stand for higher office, that comes with higher obligations. Sometimes, even the appearance of impropriety can be sufficient to call into (question) your ability to do your job,” Abrams said. “(I) think the responsibility that we have on this panel is to really measure those two, and weigh them against each other and decide what's best for the citizens that are in his district.”
Even if Brooks is suspended from office, he’ll continue to receive his legislative pay and benefits. A suspension would not call for a special election. The seat would remain vacant until the next regularly scheduled election. Brooks would return to office if the case against him was adjudicated in his favor.