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Tuesday February 9th, 2016 12:56PM

Acquitted GA lawmaker asks state to pay legal fees

By The Associated Press
ATLANTA - A lawyer for a Georgia state senator acquitted of illegally claiming mileage and expense reimbursements is asking the state to pay his client's legal fees.

Ken Hodges, an attorney for Sen. Don Balfour, on Monday sent a letter to the Georgia Department of Administrative Services seeking reimbursement for nearly $156,800 in legal fees for the Snellville Republican. He cited a section of state law that allows state officials to be reimbursed for "reasonable legal fees and other expenses incurred in the successful defense of any criminal proceeding" that arises from the performance of his official duties.

Balfour was indicted in September on felony 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 charges.

A jury in December found him not guilty on all 18 counts.

A spokeswoman for Attorney General Sam Olens, whose office prosecuted the case, had no comment on the request for reimbursement.

Lawyer Pat McDonough represented Balfour in the early phases of the matter and "gathered enough evidence to refute the allegations and had multiple meetings with members of the law department in order to dissuade them from bringing formal charges," Hodges wrote in his letter. McDonough's firm charged Balfour $52,484 for its work.

Balfour hired Hodges' firm once he was indicted, and Hodges' firm charged him $97,093.60 for work leading up to the trial and other matters that had to be handled after the verdict. Balfour also had the help of a recent law school graduate hired to do research and to work with evidence and witnesses for a fee of $7,210.

Under state law, legal fees and other expenses are subject to adjustment and approval by the attorney general.

Balfour's lawyers didn't deny during the trial that he submitted some inaccurate reports, but they said he didn't deliberately try to take money from the state and said he was being unfairly targeted for inadvertent mistakes.

After the verdict, Olens defended his office's prosecution of the case and said he remained convinced the accusations in the indictment were valid.
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