State Rep. Tyrone Brooks, D-Atlanta, resigned his seat in the Legislature on Thursday before pleading guilty to one count of tax fraud and no contest to five counts of wire and mail fraud.
Brooks faced 30 federal charges of wire, tax and mail fraud related to his work with a pair of charities. The U.S. Attorney’s Office alleged that Brooks used contributions meant for those charities for his personal expenses. A trial for Brooks had been set for June. A sentencing hearing has not been set yet.
Channel 2's Richard Elliot found Brooks outside the federal courthouse on Thursday but he had no comment.
His lawyer, former governor Roy Barnes, told Elliot that he thinks a jury would have convicted Brooks. Barnes said Brooks should have done a better job of telling major corporate donors that he was goign to use some of the money for his personal salary.
"Even the judge admitted today, there's no questions this fellow has given his whole life to the betterment of his fellow beings," Barnes said.
The veteran lawmaker and civil rights leader pleaded not guilty in 2013 after he was indicted.
In a letter to Gov. Nathan Deal dated Thursday, Brooks said he was resigning his seat after 35 years in the General Assembly to transition back to full-time “civil human rights work.” He ended his letter, “Peace and justice, we shall overcome.”
Reached by phone Wednesday evening, Brooks referred questions to his lawyer, former Gov. Roy Barnes, who did not immediately return phone messages.
The U.S. attorney's office in Atlanta, which is prosecuting the case, also declined to comment.
Prosecutors have said Brooks misappropriated nearly $1 million in funds meant for charity and used the money to pay personal and family expenses.
Barnes said at the time that Brooks may not be good at bookkeeping but didn't commit a crime.
In his resignation letter, Brooks said he is shifting his priorities back to fulltime civil human rights works.
Here is letter to Gov. Nathan Deal:
"Dear Governor Deal,
"After 35 enjoyable and successful years in the Georgia House of Representatives, I have decided to shift my priorities and transition back to fulltime Civil Human Rights work. I have decided to make the Moore’s Ford Bridge Lynching’s in Monroe, GA, my number #1 priority.
"After leading the 12th Annual March on The Bridge on Saturday, April 4th, commemorating the 47th Anniversary of my Leader and Hero Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I made my final decision on Easter Sunday at the square in downtown Covington while remembering the 1970 movement, where I was almost killed by Sheriff Henry Odum Jr. Moore’s Ford is special because it’s been a part of my life since 1968. As you know, it was on Dr. King’s agenda from 1946 to 1968. So many of my colleagues involved in this movement have just recently passed including: Mr. Ed Brown, Camilla, GA, Mr. Ralph Ivey, Social Circle, GA, and Rev. Clarence Grier Jr., former Pastor 1st African Baptist Church, Monroe, Georgia. Additionally, Mr. Robert Howard is presently suffering from Alzheimer’s/Dementia plus many more others are declining in health. Other Moore’s Ford suspects and witness are also passing away rapidly. That’s why I have to devote all my time and energy to this movement before my time is up. Plus, we are raising a 2 month old, 5 year old, and 6 year old and a 17 year old.
"Therefore I am hereby resigning from House District 55, immediately effective today."