Atlanta public corruption trial put on hold because of coronavirus

A high profile public corruption case was scheduled to start today in federal court, but a U.S. District judge reset the trial for a later date. 

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Mitzi Bickers was the first person charged in the federal investigation of Atlanta City Hall to plead not guilty, she was set to face a jury today.

Two years ago, a federal grand jury indicted Ms. Bickers on conpiracy to accept bribes, accusing her of helping steer $17 million dollars in contracts to two construction vendors who earlier pleaded guilty.

She plead not guilty and vowed to fight the charges.

And what a fight it was expected to be. Bishop Mitzi Bickers has been a high profile and powerful political operative in Atlanta for years. Fast talking and feisty, she helped Kasim Reed get elected mayor and then worked in his administration.  

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But a federal judge ruled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, everyone will have to wait to hear the evidence. The trial has been delayed until late June.

"We have to respect the public safety and health of everyone involved in the process," said U.S. Attorney BJay Pak.   

Pak says a video conference trial would be a logistical and technological nightmare. Besides, he said,  the public deserves a public and open courtroom.

LINK: Know how the COVID-19 outbreak is impacting Georgia

The FBI has been investigating Atlanta city hall for more than three years. Pak says the delay caused by the COVID-19 virus is understandable, and his office will be ready, with what he calls a strong case, when it is time to return to court.

"The public, particularly the defendant, and also our office, and law enforcement agencies and witnesses want closure and to get this process done," said Pak. 

Bicker's attorneys had no comment. 

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