breaking news

Metro Atlanta could see ‘snow showers near and after dark’

No bond for alleged brick-thrower in Atlanta bribery case

A man accused of intimidating a federal witness with a brick and dead rats was ordered held Monday without bond.

Shandarrick Barnes, 41, was indicted last week on five counts related to a September 2015 incident at the home of contractor Elvin “E.R.” Mitchell Jr., the government’s star witness in a cash-for-contracts scheme at Atlanta City Hall. He has pleaded not guilty.

Federal prosecutor Kurt Erskine said the government wanted Barnes held without bond for what he described as a violent act against Mitchell, who at the time was just starting his cooperation in the corruption and tax evasion case.

In January, Mitchell pleaded guilty to conspiring to pay more than $1 million in bribes to win city contracts. A second contractor, Charles P. Richards Jr., also has pleaded guilty in the scheme.

For the first time, prosecutors at Barnes’ bond hearing offered clues into how the government zeroed in on Mitchell. Erskine said that in July 2015, agents of the FBI and IRS confronted Mitchell at an Atlanta restaurant with evidence Mitchell had paid bribes.

Erskine identified for the first time one of the pieces of city business Mitchell won through paying bribes: work to remove snow from winter storms in 2014. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has previously reported Mitchell was paid more than $7 million in 2011 and 2014 for snow removal work that occurred around the time Mitchell admitted paying bribes.

Erskine said after being confronted by the feds, Mitchell told unnamed associates about the encounter, and that he intended to cooperate with the government. By August 2015, Erskine said Mitchell had cut off contact with the associates, and in interviews on Sept. 2 and Sept. 8, 2015, Mitchell described in detail the scheme to federal agents.

“In that time,” Erskine said, “Mr. Mitchell got a series of increasingly threatening messages.”

That culminated, Erskine said, in a pre-dawn act of vandalism at Mitchell’s home on Sept. 11, 2015. Dead rats were found Mitchell’s property and a brick with the words “Shut Up” and “ER Keep Your Mouth Shut,” crashed through the window.

Barnes admitted throwing the brick when questioned by authorities in July 2016, Erskine said. Authorities identified Barnes in part through video of a car taken from a camera operated by the homeowner’s association in Mitchell’s neighborhood.

“He almost immediately confessed,” Erskine said of Barnes.

Erskine said Barnes described himself as “livid” at Mitchell because Mitchell’s actions were going to cause him to lose opportunities to make money. The AJC previously identified business links between Barnes, Mitchell and Mitzi Bickers, a pastor, political consultant and former City Hall official whose city records have been subpoenaed in the bribery investigation.

Bickers has not been charged, and her name was not mentioned during Monday’s hearing.

Bill Morrison, an attorney for Barnes, said his client admitted to the act of vandalism, but Barnes denied to trying to intimidate a federal witness in the bribery case. Morrison said the act had “more to do with matters in Mississippi.”

After the hearing, Morrison said Barnes was angered because Mitchell tried to interfere with Barnes’ attempts to win contracts in Mississippi. Morrison declined to comment when asked if the Mississippi business had anything to do with Bickers.

Records show Mitchell and Bickers each incorporated companies in Jackson, Miss., and sought minority business certification there. In a federal lawsuit in Mississippi, Bickers allegedly told a Jackson official the former mayor wanted her to have a piece of a lucrative waterworks project.

Barnes, who worked for Atlanta’s public works department at the time, helped Bickers incorporate a business in Mississippi and took part in her political work there.

Morrison said his client is a minor figure in the complicated scandal. Morrison said Barnes did not deserve to be held without bond when Mitchell and Richards remain free on bond pending sentencing.

Chief Magistrate Judge Linda Walker disagreed.

“This court finds this was a little guy with a big brick,” she said.

Next Up in Local

Police: 13 siblings held captive in California residence
Police: 13 siblings held captive in California residence

A California couple was arrested Sunday after 13 siblings, ranging in age from 2 to 29, were allegedly held captive in a home, with several children “shackled to their beds with chains and padlocks in dark and foul-smelling surroundings,” the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department said Monday. In a news release, the Sheriff&rsquo...
Former Atlanta purchasing chief to be sentenced in bribery case
Former Atlanta purchasing chief to be sentenced in bribery case

Adam Smith, the city of Atlanta’s former top purchasing officer, will learn his fate Tuesday in a sentencing hearing before U.S. District Court Judge Steve Jones.  Smith pleaded guilty in September to accepting at least $30,000 in bribes from an as-yet-unnamed city vendor as part of the long-running federal probe into City Hall. Smith is...
LIVE UPDATES: Snow, dangerously cold air on the way
LIVE UPDATES: Snow, dangerously cold air on the way

It’s about to get cold, North Georgia. Dangerously cold. The mountain counties could get 1 to 3 inches of snow and metro Atlanta could get anywhere from a dusting to 1 inch, according to Channel 2 Action News. Snow could move into the metro area as early as Tuesday afternoon. The bitter cold, however, is not expected to arrive until Tuesday...
MLK’s nephew, Isaac Farris Jr., still says Trump is not a racist
MLK’s nephew, Isaac Farris Jr., still says Trump is not a racist

Isaac Newton Farris Jr., the nephew of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., on Monday stood behind his comments last week that President Trump is not a racist “in the traditional sense that we have known racists.” In a late night interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Farris said he didn’t think Trump “looks at people...
Good Samaritan riding Chicago train gives snow boots to homeless man
Good Samaritan riding Chicago train gives snow boots to homeless man

Giving someone the shirt off your back is a time-worn phrase that means performing an act of kindness to help someone. A Chicago man helped a homeless man by giving him the snow boots off his feet, WLS reported. Jessica Bell posted the good Samaritan act on Facebook. She said she was riding a train home last week when she saw Maurice Anderson...
More Stories