A jury has acquitted a state lawmaker accused of illegally claiming mileage and expense reimbursement from the state.
The Fulton County jury on Thursday found Sen. Don Balfour not guilty on all 18 felony counts against him. The Snellville Republican was indicted in September on charges of making a false certificate, theft by taking and a count of false statement and writing.
He was accused of illegally claiming legislative expense and mileage pay and double-billing the state and his private employer for some expenses.
Balfour's lawyers had said he was being unfairly targeted for inadvertent mistakes.
Attorney General Samuel Olens disagrees with the verdict. In a statement released Thursday afternoon, Olens said Balfour's requests for reimbursement were far too numerous to be just mistakes:
"I am very disappointed in the result of this case. The GBI investigation revealed that Senator Balfour requested and received reimbursements for expenses he did not actually incur: miles he did not drive, days he did not work, hotels other people paid for. Those requests were too numerous and systematic to be simply isolated mistakes. If those requests had been submitted by an unelected state employee, they would have been prosecuted, and a state senator should not be held to a lower standard. I was convinced that this case should be brought. A grand jury agreed."
Balfour previously agreed to pay a $5,000 fine levied by the Senate Ethics Committee for accepting pay for in-state work and travel on days when he was elsewhere.
Contributors: This report also contains material from the Associated Press.