Thu December 19, 2013
Jury Finds Sen. Don Balfour Not Guilty on All 18 Counts
State Sen. Don Balfour (R-Snellville) has been acquitted of falsifying his legislative expense reports.
A Fulton County jury delivered its verdict late Thursday morning after only a few hours of deliberations.
Balfour was charged with 18 felony counts in relation to expense reports he filed with the state legislature.
Balfour testified on his own behalf and admitted to sloppy record-keeping. His attorney, Ken Hodges, says there is a big difference between sloppiness and a felony. “He made 12 mistakes over five years,” said Hodges. “And this was a ridiculous waste of taxpayer money, and it should have never been prosecuted.”
With his acquittal, Balfour’s suspension from the State Senate is automatically lifted. But Sen. Josh McKoon (R-Columbus), who filed the initial ethics complaint against Balfour, says he does not think his colleague should get off scot-free. McKoon told WABE, “For someone who acknowledged in open court that he filed false reports with the state legislative fiscal office in order to wrongfully receive taxpayer dollars, I think that that is an offense that warrants discipline.”
Balfour’s reinstatement to the Senate Republican Caucus is not automatic, and McKoon says he will vote against it. Matt Towery is a former Republican state representative. He is now a pollster and political consultant. He says, in hindsight, the caucus’s decision to oust Balfour appears hasty. “They’re going to need him for that super-majority in the Senate that the Republicans hold,” says Towery. “So I think it’ll probably be an uncomfortable -- what I would call ‘rapprochement’ -- in which they all slowly become pals again.”
Gov. Nathan Deal said only that Sen. Balfour has been a friend to him and his administration and that he knows Balfour and his family are relieved by the verdict.
In a statement, Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens said he was disappointed in the outcome of the case.