by: Richard Elliot Updated:
ATLANTA - A jury found Gwinnett County
state Sen. Don Balfour innocent of charges that he intentionally filed false expense reports over a five-year period and kept the money.
"Today's a good day," said Balfour as he left the courthouse. "Justice was done. The jury with the wisdom of Solomon made the decision."
The State Attorney General's Office accused Balfour of intentionally filing false expense reports to get a few thousand dollars' worth of travel and business reimbursements. Prosecutors tried to show that, in some cases, Balfour double-billed the state and his full-time employer, Waffle
Balfour admitted to submitting incorrect reports but maintained it was simply unintentional mistakes chalked up to his grueling schedule and a lack of good organizational skills.
After the verdict, Balfour wasted little time attacking political rivals in his own party
"Was this politically motivated? I said on the stand, yes, it absolutely was, and it was," Balfour said.
Balfour declined to name names but demanded that the Senate Republican leadership reinstate him into the party caucus. Senate leaders stripped him of his leadership positions and removed him from the caucus after his indictment.
"How I'm going to deal with leadership? It doesn't matter," said Balfour. "I'll go and sit in my
"I think you all saw for the last three days while we were in court what a tremendous waste of taxpayer money we've gone through," said Hodges. "The taxpayers ought to be offended. I'm offended."
State Attorney General Sam Olens issued a statement defending his decision to prosecute.
"The GBI investigation revealed that Sen. Balfour requested and received reimbursements for expenses he did not actually incur," Olens wrote. "If those requests had been submitted by an unelected state employee, they would have been prosecuted. A state senator should not be held to a lower standard. I do not apologize for standing for the principle that no person is above the law."
State Sen. David Shafer,
Jury foreperson Vicki Hamilton said after the verdict that while Balfour did make mistakes, they didn't feel the mistakes were criminal. She did criticize the way the legislature did its business.
"I think there's too much sloppiness that was involved that caused a lot of this to occur in the first place," said Hamilton.