Man who threw brick accepts plea deal in Atlanta bribery probe


When Shandarrick Barnes hurled a brick through the plate-glass window of a city contractor who was cooperating with a federal pay-to-play investigation of Atlanta City Hall, he did so over concern that the probe would impact his boss and their ability to continue making money, according to admissions made in federal court on Tuesday.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution confirmed that Barnes’ boss at the time was Rev. Mitzi Bickers — a political operative who helped Mayor Kasim Reed win election in 2009, and whose records have been subpoenaed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in relation to the bribery probe.

Barnes pleaded guilty Tuesday to a single count of trying to intimidate a federal witness in connection with the brick-throwing incident. Prosecutors dropped four other charges against Barnes as part of the plea bargain, in exchange for his admission of guilt and a promise to cooperate with the ongoing investigation.

Barnes, 41, faces between three and four years in prison when he is sentenced Feb. 7.

The AJC has previously reported numerous business ties between Barnes and Bickers, and also that Bickers served as a job reference for Barnes when, fresh from a prison sentence for defrauding DeKalb and Cobb county governments of $300,000, he secured a job with the city’s Public Works Department in 2014.

Barnes was still employed by the city at the time of the September 2015 incident at Mitchell’s home, but defense attorney Bill Morrison confirmed Tuesday that Barnes was also working for Bickers as an administrative assistant. It is unclear for which of Bickers’ many companies Barnes was working.

“I don’t have any knowledge that he was instructed by Mitzi Bickers to throw that brick,” Morrison said after the hearing.

When reached on her cell phone Tuesday, Bickers hung up on a reporter without answering a question.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kurt Erskine said Tuesday that several FBI agents, and another from the IRS, are still involved in the investigation of City Hall. When asked if Barnes was a bit player in the case, Erskine said he committed a serious crime.

“It’s important to remember that throwing a brick through a federal witness’ front window at 5:45 in the morning, while his family is there asleep … is an incredibly important event,” Erskine said. “That’s something like out of the movies.

“You just can’t do that. You can’t tamper with a federal investigation.”

Investigation’s timeline

Erskine outlined the case against Barnes in court: Agents from the FBI and IRS approached contractor Elvin “E.R.” Mitchell Jr. in September of 2015 in relation to City Hall bribery. Mitchell then told unnamed associates that he planned to cooperate with the investigation. Barnes, furious that Mitchell’s cooperation threatened his livelihood, committed the vandalism days later.

Barnes told U.S. District Court Judge Steve Jones that he is guilty of the charge. Dead rats were also left on Mitchell’s property — on his porch, truck and inside his mailbox. But after the hearing, Morrison said Barnes did not admit to planting the rats.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office has obtained Bickers’ work product through subpoena at both Atlanta City Hall, and from Clayton County where she currently works as a chaplain for Sheriff Victor Hill.

As the AJC previously reported, Bickers’ legal team asked her for all bank deposits from 2011-15, saying they were important to “identify proper taxable income” and “push back and/or defend what has happened.”

The AJC also obtained Mitchell’s personal banking records, which showed at least $1.6 million transferred from companies controlled by the contractor to companies controlled by Bickers between 2013 and 2015.

Bickers resurfaces on eve of election

Barnes’ Election Day plea deal comes as Bickers appears to have re-emerged in Atlanta’s political scene. Robocall messages were sent out over the weekend with the voice of a woman who identified herself as “Pastor Mitzi Bickers.”

Bickers had been absent from the highly competitive Atlanta mayor’s race until last weekend. In the recording, obtained by the AJC, the woman didn’t endorse any candidates but encouraged residents to “vote the full ballot.”

“Don’t let negative and irresponsible media reporting and other evil forces discourage you from exercising your right to vote,” the recording says.

Mitchell was the first of two contractors to plead guilty in January, admitting to conspiracy to commit bribery. Contractor Charles P. Richards Jr. was Mitchell’s co-conspirator, and followed with a guilty plea in February.

Both men have been sentenced to prison and continue to cooperate with the investigation.

Adam Smith, the city’s former chief purchasing officer, has pleaded guilty to accepting at least $30,000 in bribes and is also cooperating with the investigation. It is unclear if the money he took came from the contractors, or if his guilty plea represents a separate track of the investigation. Two days after Smith’s guilty plea, federal agents raided the office of the PRAD Group, a major airport contractor.

Reporter J. Scott Trubey contributed to this report.




Next Up in Local

Georgia Gives asks us to support nonprofits in our lives
Georgia Gives asks us to support nonprofits in our lives

If you’re truly thankful on Thanksgiving, perhaps you should put your money where your mouth is. Georgia Gives and Giving Tuesday urge you to do just that, each year, on the Tuesday after Turkey Day. Giving Tuesday, a national day of sharing, was created five years ago by the 92nd Street Y, right around the same time that Georgians kicked...
9 bottles of moonshine found during Georgia DNR official’s DUI arrest, cops say
9 bottles of moonshine found during Georgia DNR official’s DUI arrest, cops say

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources Deputy Commissioner faces DUI and failure to maintain charges in a Sunday night crash in Jasper County, officials said.  Authorities found nine bottles of moonshine in the black 2015 Chevrolet Corvette that Walter Hyman Rabon crashed on Ga. 11 northbound, according to a Georgia State Patrol incident...
Man fears brother’s 2016 shooting death may never be solved
Man fears brother’s 2016 shooting death may never be solved

The brother of a man kidnapped and shot to death nearly two years ago prays the killers will be caught — and recently released suspect sketches could be the key to cracking the case. Thursday will be the second Thanksgiving the family shares without Herbert “Buster” Perkinson, who was kidnapped from his driveway in Emerson, shot...
Pedestrian deaths increase in Georgia, but why on the interstates?
Pedestrian deaths increase in Georgia, but why on the interstates?

Carrying a food tray in his hands, a 46-year-old man attempted to run across the westbound lanes of I-20. Tommy Lee Jenkins made it to the third lane, according to witnesses, before he tried to run back across I-20 to safety around 6:30 p.m. on a Wednesday. It was too late. A Cobb County man immediately applied the brakes when he saw Jenkins, but the...
Atlanta man accused of theft, identity fraud in DeKalb, Gwinnett counties
Atlanta man accused of theft, identity fraud in DeKalb, Gwinnett counties

A man who was arrested in October in Gwinnett County on theft charges is now being sought on identity fraud charges, Channel 2 Action News reported. “I have not taken anything from anybody,” Eugene Hunter said during his arrest in Snellville. However, South Carolina resident John Bowen and his son Eric sought help from Hunter when they...
More Stories