Almost a year after the investigation became public, two people have been sentenced for the Atlanta bribery scandal.
After admitting to paying about $200,000 in bribes to someone in City Hall, C.P. Richards was sentenced Tuesday afternoon to 27 months in prison.
Tuesday morning, E.R. Mitchell was sentenced to five years Tuesday morning at U.S. District Court. Mitchell is a contractor who admitted paying $1 million to someone in Atlanta City Hall in exchange for city construction contracts.
“I apologize to the community. I have been, and will continue to, cooperate with investigators,” said Mitchell before his sentencing today. “I will make amends to all involved for my wrongdoings.”
Citing his continued cooperation with federal investigators, the U.S. Attorney indicated they would likely ask for a reduced sentence at a later date.
BACKGROUND ON THE CASE
- Details on Atlanta bribery scandal
- Atlanta businessman pleads guilty to bribery, money laundering
- Second contractor pleads guilty in City Hall bribery scandal
- City releases 1.4M documents in bribery scandal
- DOCUMENTS | Read the subpoena
- Wife: Businessman used her name in bribery scheme
While Mitchell's hearing lasted less than 15 minutes and included no witnesses, Richards hearing lasted more than an hour and a half and included six character witnesses. Each person testified to Richards devotion to his community and his employees. Richards' attorney said his client agreed with Mitchell's plan to bribe Atlanta officials in order to keep from firing employees during the 2009 recession.
"I lived my life trying to do the right thing," said Richards in court. "In this instance, I failed. I am forever tainted and deeply sorry."
The U.S. Attorney pointed out Richards bribing continued well past the 2009 recession and included twelve bribe payments.
At one point, Mitchell wore a wire for federal investigators and tried to get Richards to agree to pay yet another bribe. In that instance, Richards refused.
So far, the investigation has led to charges against only one city employee, Adam Smith. Smith was Atlanta’s former chief procurement official until he was fired immediately before the FBI raided his office and confiscated his phone, laptop, and other items. Last month, Smith admitted in court to accepting $30,000 from an unnamed city contractor in exchange for influencing construction contracts.
The big question is where is the rest of the $1.2 million dollars the contractors paid in bribes? And who did that money go to, if Smith only received $30,000? Presumably, that’s what federal investigators are trying to learn and that could explain why we’ve seen so few arrests so far in Atlanta’s City Hall.
Citing that Mitchell is not an elected official but he is involved in the process of government, Judge Steve Jones said his actions have eroded citizen’s confidence in their government.
“Your actions have caused that foundation (of confidence in the government) to be weakened,” said Judge Jones, directly before he sentenced Mitchell to five years in prison.
Shandarrick Barnes has also been charged in relation tot eh bribery scandal. He faces witness intimidation charges for throwing a dead rat and bricks at Mitchell’s home. The brick included a handwritten note that said, “E.R. keep your mouth shut.”
Barnes worked for Mitzi Bickers, a prominent name in the bribery investigation, though she has not been charged with anything. A former City of Atlanta employee, federal investigators seized Bickers city emails and paperwork as part of the bribery probe. Bickers was instrumental in helping Kasim Reed get elected as Mayor of Atlanta. She was then hired to work for the City of Atlanta.
Mitchell will be asked to turn himself into authorities in the next 45 days.