ATLANTA - Federal prosecutors picked up their fourth guilty plea Tuesday in the ongoing Atlanta City Hall bribery scandal.
Channel 2 investigative reporter Richard Belcher was in court when the defendant admitted he tried to intimidate a key witness in the investigation.
Shandarrick Barnes, 41, a former employee of a well-known political consultant, pleaded guilty to one count of trying to interfere with a federal investigation.
Specifically, Barnes admitted that he threw a concrete block through the window of the house of contractor E.R. Mitchell days after he learned that Mitchell was talking to FBI and IRS agents.
On the block were the words "ER, keep your mouth shut." When Mitchell went outside to see who had thrown the block, he saw that dead rats had been placed on his porch, car and in his mailbox.
Mitchell, we now know, had already admitted paying what he called upfront money for city contracts in late summer of 2015.
- Oct. 10, 2017: Contractors in City Hall bribery scandal sentenced
- Sept. 26, 2017: Former high-ranking city official 'takes full responsibility' for taking bribes, attorney says
- Feb. 16, 2017: 2nd businessman pleads guilty in bribery case
- Jan. 26, 2017: Atlanta mayor distances himself from staffer with connection to bribery scandal
- Jan. 25, 2017: Construction CEO pleads guilty to federal corruption, bribery charges
- Jan. 19, 2017: Mayor responds to allegations of $1M bribery scandal involving city contracts
Barnes admitted the incident to federal authorities a year later, and Tuesday he formally pleaded guilty in federal court.
“Mr. Barnes thought that by throwing a rock, actually a concrete block, through E.R. Mitchell's front window that he could hinder the investigation. In fact, it only made Mr. Mitchell more resolute, and made the FBI and IRS agents more determined, that they would continue the investigation into corruption in the city of Atlanta,” First Assistant U.S. Attorney Kurt Erskine said.
A federal prosecutor told the court that Barnes wanted to hinder the investigation because he feared it might harm his employer. Barnes attorney confirmed that was a reference to Mitzi Bickers, a well-known political consultant and former city employee who was known to be a subject of the investigation.
Channel 2 Action News and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution have reported that Mitchell paid Bickers around $1.6 million, but federal authorities have not said that those payments were the bribes Mitchell has admitted paying.
Barnes attorney said Bickers did not instruct Barnes to try and intimidate Mitchell. Bickers has not been charged.
Barnes will be sentenced in February.
Erskine said they are continuing to follow allegations and "are not done yet."
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