UPDATE 650 p.m. 9/9: ADDED photos, Bickers statement; more to follow
Former Clayton County Sheriff’s Office Chief of Staff Mitzi Bickers was sentenced to 14 years in federal prison for her role in the Atlanta City Hall bribery scandal.
U.S. District Judge Steve C. Jones noted Bickers’ history of community service and loyal supporters but said Bickers’ actions had cast a cloud over “honest, hardworking” city employees.
Bickers also must pay $2,995,160.51 in restitution to the city.
She must wear an ankle monitor and will be under house arrest until she turns herself in to the federal Bureau of Prisons. She is allowed to go to and from church, medical appointments, and her attorneys until tne U.S.Bureau of Prisons asks her to turn herself in, Jones said.
”Please don’t do anything that would put you in a situation that I have to change this,” Jones warned Bickers.
The judge granted her request to be sent to FCI Aliceville, a federal prison in Birmingham, Alabama.
In the front row, along with a courtroom full of Bickers’ supporters, was co-conspirator Charles P. Richards, who had been sentenced to two years.
Defense attorneys Marissa Goldberg and Drew Findling contended that Bickers was “penalized” for opting to go to trial. They will appeal to the Eleventh Circuit.
A tearful Bickers told U.S. District Judge Steve C. Jones, “I’m humbled to come before you and you know, as I think back over this whole process, one of the most devastating moments in my whole life was when I received the indictment in my hand, and it said, United States of America vs. Mitzi Bickers. And I thought, wow, the whole United States of America? Then I thought, well, factions of the United states of America. It’s the United States of Americ that I have…”
Bickers broke down.
”That I have given the majority of my life to assure that the people that we support were good for government.”
Citing her more than 40 years in Atlanta politics, Bickers said she had sought to fight injustice. And she blamed government witness and co-conspirator, former Atlanta contractor E.R. Mitchell, for her predicament,
”When I sat on that side of politics, when I met E.R. Mitchell, when his dad introduced me, I had no idea 30 years later that I would be standing here. One of the fights I fought was minority participation but not so I could give a kickback or get a kickback. I still see a lot of inequities. I don’t know what E.R. Mitchell’s talking about….”
Indicating the federal prosecutors, she added, ”My heart is very heavy becuase of this picture that these young people behind me have tried to paint of me, the PowerPoints that left out so much….I still sat, just believing that it was part of the process I never said anything…I just remained hopeful believing that some way, somehow, the people that I fought for was not in vain, some way, somehow, the God of my salvation would not fail me. It’s just so bad that I could do nothing but just sit in humility and ask God to move, and that’s what I’m asking God to do now, to move on your heart.”
She continued, ”There have been moments of bitterness and anger, and there have been moments when I know if I hadn’t had the Lord on my side, I would have gone crazy. And I still had to be strong for everybody because they were depending on me.”
Bickers then said ”I’m sure my attorneys will instruct me if I’m going too far, but when E.R. Mitchell said to me—“
Jones and Bickers’ attorney, Drew Findling quickly cut her off.
”Mitzi, you shouldn’t…” Findling said.
”Yes, sir. Yes, sir,” she replied. ”I’ll just say that I’m praying and I believe that God is not through with this situation. And that you will see beyond this horrible picture that has been painted.”
Bickers continued, ”My dad [civil rights leader Rev. Benjamin Weldon Bickers] used to tell all the politicians that came into the church, ’Love justice, do mercy, and walk humbly with your God.’ And I just implore you to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God. I want to say thank you to an incredible team of attorneys. I want to say thank you to my family and friends, Keyla, who has gone through as much as I have through this process. It’s been mean. It’s been mean. And I refuse to believe that what I have been doing in the last nine years of my life is representative of these United States of America. We have suffered greatly. Thank you.”
Robin Kemp is executive editor and CEO of The Clayton Crescent, which she founded in 2020. She has worked for Gambit, CNN, The Weather Channel, Clayton News, Henry Herald, and numerous freelance outlets....
More by Robin Kemp