ATLANTA (AP) — A jury has convicted a former county commissioner in suburban Atlanta of extorting contractors seeking county work.
Federal jurors convicted Sharon Barnes Sutton of two counts of extortion on Wednesday after a day of deliberations and a one-week trial.
Evidence presented at trial indicated that Barnes Sutton accepted $1,000 in bribes from a contractor seeking a $1.8 million county sewer contract, while demanding more. Evidence also showed she accepted $5,000 from a confidential FBI informant.
A federal judge will sentence the 63-year-old Stone Mountain woman in January. She could face up to 20 years in prison, but is likely to get a shorter sentence under federal sentencing guidelines.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports Reginald Veasley was a subcontractor seeking construction work at a DeKalb County wastewater plant in 2014. The county was then beginning an overhaul of its aging sewer system that was plagued with allegations of corruption.
A county staffer wearing a wire for the FBI recorded conversations with Veasley and Barnes Sutton about her demands for money. She accepted two $500 payments before the FBI stepped in.
“This was a shakedown, plain and simple,” the newspaper reported that prosecutor Victor Salgado said during his closing argument.
Barnes Sutton’s lawyers said at trial that the payments were not bribes, but contributions for an “informal legal defense fund.” She was being investigated at the time for misusing a county purchasing card.
Sutton was voted out in 2016.