ATLANTA - One week after being indicted on thirty fraud and tax evasion charges, State Representative Tyrone Brooks (D-Atlanta) showed up at Atlanta's federal courthouse to enter a "not guilty" plea on Wednesday.
Brooks and his attorney, former Georgia Governor Roy Barnes, were both uncharacteristically silent as they entered the building.
The longtime lawmaker and civil rights leader is accused of pocketing more than $1-million in contributions he solicited for various causes, including fighting illiteracy.
Barnes said he was representing Brooks for free and asked for a public defender to help with the case.
But Federal Magistrate Judge Alan Baverman denied the request for now.
He granted Brooks freedom on a $25,000 unsecured bond, but attorney Barnes objected to a condition that bans Brooks from contacting any witnesses or potential victims in the case.
Barnes pointed out several of the people Brooks supposedly scammed are scheduled to appear with him as supporters at a Thursday news conference.
When the judge suggested it was not wise to talk about the case publicly, Barnes pointed out the U.S. Attorney's office held a highly publicized news conference when Brooks was indicted last week.
"It's tit for tat," Barnes said, calling Brooks' plans to hold his own news conference a First Amendment right.
While Brooks and Barnes refused to discuss the case with the news media when they left the courthouse, several NAACP members showed up for their own news conference.
"Innocent until proven guilty," said DeKalb County NAACP President John Evans.
The civil rights activists said they were not addressing Brooks' innocence or guilt, but whether he was being selectively prosecuted.
They accused the U.S. Justice Department and the FBI of ignoring other potentially corrupt public officials, including some governors, but refused to name any.
They also accused the federal government of spending money and time to prosecute Brooks that could be better spent on several unsolved racial crimes from the past few decades that Brooks was trying to solve.
"Let those resources be used to deal with all of these cold cases, people who died in the name of freedom, who simply want justice," said Georgia NAACP President Rev. Edward DuBose.