Star witness says he was FBI informant years before Mitzi Bickers steered him contracts

ATLANTA — The star witness in the Mitzi Bickers trial for corruption at Atlanta City Hall admitted Thursday that he was an FBI informant for several years before he began paying Bickers to help him get City of Atlanta contracts.

Channel 2 investigative reporter Richard Belcher was in the courtroom when a defense attorney argued that E.R. Mitchell even deceived the FBI.

Prosecutors finished their direct examination of contractor E.R. Mitchell by having him admit his previous work with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. They also had him describe his reaction when the FBI returned in 2015 to confront him about Bickers.

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Mitchell told the jury that he apprehensive at first, but ultimately agreed to work with them again.

The contractor says it was Bickers who offered to help him get city contracts when his company was all but bankrupt during the recession.

Belcher said Mitchell’s company received more than $5 million in snow-clearing work after the winter storms in 2014 that left the interstate shut down for days. That price included selling the city salt for the roads at a price 63% higher than another company.

Mitchell testified that he paid Bickers hundreds of thousands of dollars, mostly in cash, for the snow clearing and other city work.

In July 2015, however, Mitchell said he was approached by FBI agents about Bickers, his questionable cash transfers and the city contracts.

“I, quite frankly, was backpedaling. I was grasping at straws to explain. I lied to protect myself,” Mitchell told the jury.


He said that Bickers told him to hire an attorney, but not to cooperate when he was pressured to. He chose to ignore her request not to cooperate and did so anyway.

Drew Findling, Bickers’ defense attorney, claimed that Mitchell was lying while on the stand.

He focused in on an deal Mitchell reached with prosecutors in 2006 that would keep them for prosecuting him for overbilling the Fulton County School System if he would work undercover for the FBI.

When Mitchell insisted that he didn’t cheat the school system, Findling fired back, “It’s never your fault. You’re always looking for someone to blame.”

Findling also argued that Mitchell kept federal authorities in the dark about his dealings with Bickers.

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Mitchell refuted the claim that he was working with the FBI for the first under the code name Tee Off as late as 2012, which would have been well after the government says he and Bickers were engaging in the bribery scheme.