Attorneys for former Clayton County Sheriff’s Department Chief of Staff Mitzi Bickers have filed notice that they are appealing her conviction to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh District.
Bickers, who was convicted on nine of 12 counts related to the Atlanta City Hall bribery scandal, remains on house arrest with an ankle monitor until the federal Bureau of Prisons tells her to report to serve her sentence. (She is allowed to go to and from church, medical and legal appointments.)
Attorney Marissa Goldberg filed the notice of appeal with the U.S. Northern District of Georgia Court on Wednesday, Sept. 14:
A check of the Eleventh Circuit’s online filings did not return a copy of the appeal as of press time.
Attorney Drew Findling said on Sept. 8 that the defense had “mixed feelings” about the sentence.
“On the one hand, we do know that the judge gave far less than the government had asked and far less than the sentencing guidelines called for,” Findling told reporters immediately after Bickers was sentenced. “But at the same time, we still maintain firmly that we are concerned about the issue of the trial penalty, whether it’s in this courthouse or any courthouse around the country. It just seems that you’re discouraged for exercising your constitutional right to go to trial.”
Pointing out that Bickers had been offered 60 months if she had “opted to not go to trial” by pleading guilty, Findling said, “She decided to go to trial. She decided to test the system, and there were significant acquittals [the not guilty verdicts on three charges] in this case. And so, we care about Mitzi Bickers, we care about her family, and we care about her community, and it’s for that we are extremely disappointed. Because the world is a better place with her free and with her contributions.”
He said “the real Mitzi Bickers” is the one who houses homeless veterans and does other charitable works in the community.
“I think the more important focus should be on who we make deals with when it comes to our federal government. I think that’s something that we tried to put a lens on today that the community needs to think about,” Findling told reporters. “I think we need to think about the fact that all of your stations opened up with news about Jackson, Mississippi and how the people there are drinking poisoned water, and Mitzi Bickers tried to do something about that. And perhaps if our federal government spent more money on that, and less money researching who spends money on chicken wings and fundraising, and who goes to strip clubs, perhaps the people in Jackson would be better served, and pregnant women would have clean water, and children would have clean water, and seniors would have clean water. So it is ironic what led each of your news stations’ stories today, on the day of the sentencing.”
Findling was referring to Bickers’ superceding federal indictment on one count of bribery, for allegedly trying to influence Jackson, MS officials to help her get at least a part of the city’s $1 billion Wastewater Consent Decree Program Management Services Contract, “as well as a piece of another $75 million contract for a new convention center hotel,” as reported by The Northside Sun.
As part of the alleged scheme, Bickers repeatedly brought then-candidate Mayor Tony Yarber to Atlanta, including an infamous party at her Lake Spivey home where Yarber and guests were greeted by strippers wearing only body paint, and treated him to a New Orleans strip club where he allegedly received a lap dance.
The jury found Bickers not guilty on the bribery charge. E.R. Mitchell, the contractor who testified against Bickers and who the government said had paid for Yarber’s trips, pleaded guilty. Bickers’ attorneys argued at sentencing that Mitchell, not Bickers, had run the Atlanta scheme.
Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill hired Bickers after she was forced to resign from Atlanta City Hall for leaving her consulting income off her financial disclosure statement. Bickers did not mention her employment at City Hall nor her ongoing political consulting business when she applied for a job as a CCSO corrections officer.
Within a few years, Hill promoted Bickers to a specially-created post of chief chaplain, later making her chief of staff.
Hill was suspended by Gov. Brian Kemp pending the outcome of Hill’s own federal trial on charges he abused his power under color of law by allegedly using jailhouse restraint chairs to punish inmates.