by: Richard Elliot Updated:
ATLANTA - Longtime Georgia State Rep. Tyrone Brooks pleaded not guilty to federal fraud and tax evasion charges Wednesday even as his attorney, former governor Roy Barnes, worked to have the indictment tossed out.
A federal grand jury indicted Brooks on charges he solicited close to a $1 million in charitable donations for two organizations, Universal Humanities, which he created, and the Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials, but then kept that money for himself. The indictment alleges he used the money for personal expenses like lawn care and personal bills.
In court, Barnes announced he filed a motion challenging the racial makeup of the grand jury itself, stating the formula used to pick grand jurors is based on an outdated population list made before the last census in 2010.
In the motion, Barnes asked the judge to "dismiss this indictment for unconstitutional and legally deficient grand jury selection." He also wrote the grand jury "is materially unrepresentative of the cross section of the community."
Brooks has served in the Georgia Legislature since 1980 as the representative from Fulton and Douglas counties. He's also worked as a civil rights activist dating back to the 1960s.
Outside the courthouse, members of the Georgia NAACP rallied to support Brooks, though they didn't want to speak as to his guilt or innocence. They feel the money and resources used to indict Brooks should be used to solve what they said were a series of unsolved racially-motivated cold case murders dating back 60 years.
"We're concerned our tax dollars and resources are being used to target one man," said Georgia NAACP President Edward Dubose.
The judge granted Brooks a $25,000 unsecured bond.
Neither Brooks nor Barnes had any comment as they left the courthouse.