Monday marked the first day for the trial of State Senator Don Balfour. Fulton County Superior Court Judge Henry Newkirk presided over day one, which was devoted largely to jury selection.
Balfour’s attorney ,William Hill, interviewed potential jurors about their ability to be impartial to the senator.
Some of his questions may hint at the defense.
For example, Hill asked jurors if they have attention deficit disorder. He’s also wanted to know if any of the jurors were meticulous about balancing their checkbooks, and if they kept long hours working two jobs.
The Snellville Republican is charged with submitting false expense reports to claim reimbursements when he wasn't on official state duty.
In one instance, he allegedly billed the state and his employer, the Waffle House, for the same item.
Balfour’s attorneys say he didn’t intend to cheat, and plan to argue that he mistakenly claimed reimbursements when he wasn't on official state duty.
His attorney, Ken Hodges, argues the expense report errors were inadvertent. Hodges says his client will prevail because none of the witnesses interviewed by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said Balfour intentionally misreported his expenses.
“Criminal intent is a necessary element of the crime, and the state is going to have to prove Don Balfour intended to do this and they will not be able to do so,” said Hodges. “And in fact, the GBI agent has already testified under oath that he did not find a single witness who would offer evidence that Don Balfour intended to do this.”
Atlanta criminal defense attorney Page Pate agrees with Hodges.
“If the defense is ‘Yes, looking at this now, that is false and inaccurate but at the time I made that statement, I didn’t know it was false and inaccurate’ -that would be not an intentional violation of the law.”
Other criminal defense attorneys say when you sign your name to a document, you are certifying it’s true and correct.
A spokeswoman with the Attorney General’s office, which is trying the case, declined to comment.
Gov. Nathan Deal suspended Balfour from the Senate in November.The suspension expires at the end of the year. That means unless he’s convicted or the case is delayed, Balfour will return to the legislature next month