Bond denied for key player in Atlanta bribery case

- Sean Barnes is facing a five count federal indictment for threatening, intimidating, and retaliating against city contractor E.R. Mitchell in 2015.

Barnes is accused of throwing a brick through Mitchell’s front window at 5:30 in the morning, and spreading dead rats around Mitchell’s home. The brick contained writing warning Mitchell to shut up and stop talking.

A year and a half later, Mitchell, admitted to conspiring to commit bribery to get city construction contracts. He confessed to paying more than $1 million to an unnamed person believing that the funds would be paid to one or more city officials with influence over the contracting process.

Barnes was in court today for a bond hearing following the unsealing of last week’s witness tampering indictment.

First Assistant US Attorney Kurt Erskine argued Barnes committed “ a violent act” perhaps “out of the movies. Erskine also argued Barnes confessed to throwing the brick and was “livid” at E.R. Mitchell when he did so. Erskine also spelled out Barnes’ lengthy criminal history.

Barnes attorney, Bill Morrison, countered that most of the crimes were old, that Barnes had family support, and that he was just a “little guy” in the Atlanta bribery investigation.

Magistrate Judge Linda Walker said Barnes was a “little guy with a big brick” and denied bond.

WHAT WE LEARNED

Kurt Erskine gave out a timeline that included new information.

-     FBI and IRS agents took Mitchell to a restaurant in July 2015 and told him they had evidence of his bribery. He told his co-conspirators about the meeting and that he was going to cooperate. After he stopped talking to his co-conspirators he received threatening calls, visits, and then the brick.

-     Barnes was caught when a surveillance camera in E.R. Mitchell’s neighborhood recorded his car around the time of the brick throwing.

-     Barnes’ attorney says his client was trying to interfere with the bribery investigation; rather, he was mad about losing possible contracts in Jackson, Mississippi.

-     Barnes’ one-time business partner, Mitzi Bickers, was doing political work in Jackson, Mississippi around that time. Bickers is a former city employee, preacher, and a onetime political consultant for Mayor Kasim Reed.

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