Construction CEO pleads guilty to federal corruption, bribery charges

ATLANTA — Construction CEO E. R. Mitchell pleaded guilty in a million dollar federal bribery and corruption case Monday that has ties to the Atlanta city government.

Channel 2 Action News broke the news of the federal investigation and the arrest.

The case took a big step forward Wednesday but what is still unknown is the name of the second person who paid bribes, as well as the name of the person who got over $1 million in cash. We still don’t know the names of the people inside City Hall who received the cash to influence contracting.

[READ: Man charged with intimidating bribery witness tied to mayor operative]

In federal court Wednesday, Mitchell admitted his role.

Accompanied by his attorney, Mitchell walked away from the federal courthouse in downtown Atlanta late Wednesday afternoon after a solemn but brutal 25 minutes in which he admitted he had paid years of bribes to win city of Atlanta contracts.

Sketch by Richard Miller

U.S. Attorney John Horne said Mitchell and his still unnamed co-conspirators called it “upfront money.”

“During this conspiracy, Mr. Mitchell paid over $1 million in bribe payments to this individual, believing that a portion of that money was going to be paid to another person who exercised influence over the city-contracting process,” Horne said after the hearing.

“Mr. Mitchell has made some mistakes and he’s admitting to those mistakes,” defense attorney Craig Gillen said.

Judge Steven Jones accepted Mitchell’s plea of guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit bribery and money laundering and set an April sentencing date, by that may well be postponed.

This case may have a long way to go.

“He has been cooperating and he’s going to continue to cooperate with the United States until this is over,” Gillen said.

“Can you tell us who was the bagman? Who got the money?” Channel 2 investigative reporter Richard Belcher asked Gillen.

“I’m not going to comment on the evidence. That would be inappropriate,” Gillen said.

Horne closed his brief remarks by emphasizing what the conspiracy does to public faith in government.

“Citizens need to have trust and confidence that the contractor that is identified as the qualifying contractor is in fact the most qualified contractor. And they need to have faith and confidence that the process that’s used to identify the most qualified contractor is fair,” Gillen said.

Mitchell faces five years in a federal penitentiary and a $500,000 fine plus unspecified restitution. That all hinges on his cooperation with the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.