A Fulton County jury will begin deliberations again Thursday to decide the fate of State Senator Don Balfour. He faces charges he filed fraudulent expense reports.
Day three of the Snellville Republican’s trial in Fulton County Superior Court Wednesday included testimony from his wife and former Governor Sonny Perdue. But the most damaging testimony to the state’s case was Balfour’s own statements.
He says the errors in his expense reports were simple mistakes. And in casting doubt on the state’s numbers, his attorney, Ken Hodges, attempted to undermine the credibility of the case against Balfour.
In more than an hour of questioning, Hodges asked Balfour to clarify where he went and how much he was owed on days in the indictment.
“So in that instance you did take $22.73 more than you should have, but not the $32.32 that the state alleges?" Hodges asked Balfour.
Balfour responded, "“Yes that’s right."
The trial ended with his testimony that the case was the fruit of political enemies plotting against him.
His defense argued the errors in travel vouchers he filed between 2007 and 2012 were innocent mistakes. His attorneys also showed he often didn’t collect reimbursements owed to him, and the amounts in question were small.
In his closing argument, Hodges questioned the point of bringing a case for such small amounts of money as a few hundred dollars.
“You need to send a message to the attorney general as fast as you can: quit wasting our time, quit wasting our resources, quit wasting our tax dollars. You should be angry, ” said Hodges.
Senior assistant attorney general David McLaughlin bristled at the idea Balfour’s offense wasn’t serious because the amount was small.
“Members of the jury, when did truth and honesty and taxpayer money regardless of the amount become small?” said McLaughlin.
The assistant attorney also questioned the defense’s portrait of Balfour as disorganized, saying he kept careful records for his job at the Waffle House.
The state has accused Balfour of double-billing taxpayers and his employer for one expense. Balfour said the Waffle House where he works often pays for expenses the state can’t afford, and it was an oversight.
If convicted, Balfour would likely lose the Senate seat he’s held for more than two decades.