Attorneys for indicted former city of Atlanta official Mitzi Bickers want more time to vet evidence against their client in her pending bribery trial, which includes more than 1 million documents and some 40 audio recordings, according to court records obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News.
Bickers’ attorneys told a judge last week they need more time to file pretrial motions as they wade through mountains of data and documents on a computer hard drive and a disk. Many of the recordings, the attorneys wrote in a motion to U.S. Magistrate Judge Linda Walker, are “nearly two hours in length.”
Prosecutors did not oppose the motion and Walker set a status conference in the case for July 24.
Bickers, a pastor and go-to political consultant who helped former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed win election in 2009, was indicted in April on 11 felony counts. The charges include conspiracy to commit bribery, money laundering, wire fraud, tampering with a witness or informant, and filing false tax returns.
Bickers has pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutors allege Bickers accepted more than $2 million in bribes from 2010 to 2014 in exchange for steering $17 million of city work to two contractors who have already pleaded guilty. Bickers allegedly laundered the money through her home, cars, jet skis and other luxury purchases.
Bickers worked as Reed’s director of human services from 2010 to 2013. She’s accused of orchestrating the cash-for-contracts scheme while with the city and after leaving her city post.
Bickers’ attorney Drew Findling did not immediately return a message seeking comment Tuesday. Kurt Erskine, an assistant U.S. attorney, declined to comment citing the ongoing case.
Prosecutors allege Bickers and the two contractors were involved in snow removal and sidewalk contracts. The feds also are digging into records related to Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and the city’s watershed department.
A federal grand jury recently subpoenaed records related to Reed’s city-issued credit card and other records involving two senior city officials.
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The contents of the recordings or how they were obtained are not described in the court filing. Caren Morrison, a Georgia State University law professor and former prosecutor, said audio files could be the result of recordings made by informants, wiretaps, witness interviews or other means.
Recorded conversations can be powerful evidence at trial, revealing far more to a jury than witness testimony, Morrison said.
“We’d love to know who’s on these audio recordings and presumably we’ll have to wait for trial,” she said. “It makes it a lot more exciting when you actually hear people — live — talking about things.”
Prosecutors are known to possess Bickers’ tax returns and other financial records.
Contractors Elvin “E.R.” Mitchell Jr. and Charles P. Richards Jr. have agreed to testify as part of plea deals each entered with the government. A third man, Shandarrick Barnes, who once worked for the city and for Bickers also has agreed to testify.
Barnes admitted to throwing a brick through a window in Mitchell’s home in 2015 in an attempt to keep the contractor from cooperating.
Adam Smith, the city’s former purchasing director, also has pleaded guilty to taking bribes, though his actions are separate from the Bickers proceedings, prosecutors have said.
Reporting last year by the AJC and Channel 2 Action News revealed contractor Elvin “E.R.” Mitchell Jr., who admitted to paying bribes to win city business, paid companies tied to ex-city official Mitzi Bickers more than $1.6 million during a three-year period within the timeframe of the alleged City Hall bribery scheme. Prosecutors later indicted Bickers on 11 felony counts.