Man charged with intimidating bribery witness tied to mayor operative

ATLANTA — Investigators have made an arrest in an intimidation case related to a construction CEO who pleaded guilty to paying more than $1 million in bribes for construction contracts.

Channel 2 investigative reporter Jodie Fleischer has been digging into that person’s ties to City Hall.

As soon as she learned there was an arrest in the intimidation case Fleischer immediately started to check out the man who's charged.

Fleischer found Shandarrick Barnes has a lengthy criminal record, even prison time for racketeering in DeKalb County.

Barnes had just gotten out of prison two years earlier, after a racketeering scheme involving bailbonding refunds in DeKalb County.

Barnes worked for a very powerful campaign operative, who worked directly for Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed.

Fleischer obtained a police report showing E. R. Mitchell was talking to the FBI at least as far back as September 2015.

Someone desperately wanted to shut him up and told him so by throwing a brick through his living room window, with the message written on it.

When Mitchell went outside his southwest Atlanta home, he found at least three dead rats had been placed on his doorstep and on his truck.

Channel 2 has now learned police arrested Barnes late last year, after FBI agents said Barnes cooperated and confessed to the crime.

He's charged with felony criminal damage to property.

Barnes had just gotten out of prison two years earlier, after a racketeering scheme involving bailbonding refunds in DeKalb County.

State records show up until his arrest, Barnes worked for a company called the Bickers Group. That company's CEO, Mitzi Bickers, also used to work for E.R. Mitchell.

“This isn't just a low-level contractor. This is a major player in Atlanta politics and certainly Atlanta contracting, so I think this is going to have a huge effect," said William Perry, with Georgia Ethics Watchdogs.

Candidates across metro Atlanta have paid Bickers hundreds of thousands of dollars to mobilize voters.

She's widely considered to have won Reed his first mayor's race.

Reed promptly hired her to work at City Hall as director of human services; she directly reported to the mayor.

Bickers is a past chairwoman of the Atlanta School Board.

She also once worked as vice president of operations for E.R. Mitchell Company, LLC, which is one of the four companies named in the larger federal case.

Prosecutors have presented no evidence tying Bickers or the mayor to the intimidation, or the corruption.

Wednesday, Mitchell admitted giving someone more than a million dollars to be passed on to Atlanta city officials in exchange for construction contracts.

"That money has to go to decision makers in order to win the contract, so I imagine the decision makers were pretty big folks," Perry said.

Mitchell also has direct ties to Mayor Reed, donating at least $7,000 to his campaigns.

Mitchell hosted a fundraiser for Reed during his first mayoral race, and raised at least $10,000 for his re-election bid

So far Mitchell is the only person charged in the federal case, but prosecutors have indicated more arrests will be coming.

Barnes hung up the phone when asked about the brick-throwing incident and his connection to Bickers.

Bickers has refused to comment on the case.

Mayor Reed will only say that the city is fully cooperating with the investigation and that the integrity of the city’s procurement process is of the utmost concern.