4th guilty plea in Atlanta city hall bribery investigation

- A fourth man has pleaded guilty in the ongoing FBI and IRS bribery investigation at Atlanta City Hall.

Former city employee, Sean Barnes, pleaded guilty to threatening a federal witness by throwing a block through the witnesses' front window.

Sean Barnes had earlier entered a not guilty plea to a five-count indictment accusing him of threatening a federal witness.  But, now he has admitted guilt and is cooperating with the FBI and the IRS.

In court, Barnes pleaded guilty to one count of threatening a federal witness. Specifically, Barnes admitted he threw a concrete block through city contractor and federal witness ER Mitchell's front window. The message: ER Keep Your Mouth Shut.

“Throwing a rock through a federal witnesses' front window at 5:45 in the morning, while his family is there asleep, while's he's there asleep, is an incredibly important event, said First Assistant U.S. Attorney Kurt Erskine, “that is something like out of the movies.”

The ongoing and ever-deepening FBI investigation has sent shock waves through city hall.

We’ve seen FBI agents raid a city vendor's office.  Jeff Jafari, at the time, was the VP of a construction, design firm known as the Prad Group.

In February the FBI carted off a computer and phone belonging to then chief procurement officer Adam Smith who has since pled guilty to bribery conspiracy. Sources told me the U.S. Attorney’s office believes Jeff Jafari was the man who paid those bribes to Adam Smith.

And last month, contractor’s ER Mitchell and Charlie Robertson both plead guilty to paying bribes to an unidentified person, expecting the bribe money to be shared around City Hall. Both have been sentenced to prison.

US Attorney Kurt Erskine told the judge that Barnes threw the block through Mitchell's window just days after Mitchell met with and cooperated fully with the FBI and IRS in a bribery and money laundering case.  

“He knows he made a big mistake, he regrets it, he’s remorseful,” says Barnes’ attorney bill Morrison.   

Why did he do it? In court, Barnes was described as angry because Mitchell's cooperation with the FBI threatened work he and his employer were trying to get.

Barnes' attorney said that unidentified employer was Mitzi Bickers.  A local pastor and political operative who once did campaign worked for Mayor Kasim Reed and worked with the Mayor at city hall.

“We continue to look at not only Mr. Barnes involvement, but others involvement in the case,” says Erskine, “it remains a very active investigative space.”

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