Mitzi Bickers leaves the Richard B. Russell federal courthouse in Atlanta, Sept. 8, 2022. She was sentenced to 14 years in prison for her role in the Atlanta City Hall contract bribery scandal. She will wear an ankle monitor and is on house arrest until she reports to prison. Her attorneys say they will appeal to the U.S. Eleventh Circuit. Credit: Robin Kemp/The Clayton Crescent

Attorneys for convicted political fixer and former Clayton County Sheriff’s Office Chief of Staff Mitzi Bickers have filed a request in the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals to drop wire fraud charges against their client.

Bickers was convicted of conspiracy to commit bribery, three counts of money laundering, and making false statements on her tax returns. She was acquitted of bribery, conspiracy to commit bribery, and witness tampering. But it’s the four counts of wire fraud that are in question due to recent changes in the law from rulings on other cases.

On June 23, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia Ryan Buchanan filed a brief, reiterating the facts of the case and explaining five issues related to Bickers’ appeal. Those include:

  • whether the district court “abused its discretion by precluding cross examination as to a settled civil lawsuit, allegations raised in Mitchell’s divorce, and baseless questions about whether Mitchell was paid by the FBI, and, regardless, was the exclusion harmless considering the expansive cross-examination on topics that challenged Mitchell’s credibility and bias and the other evidence in the case?”
  • whether the district court abused its discretion by “denying Bickers’s motion for a curative instruction as to [Mitchell’s] testimony” when he said he “did not remember certain specifics of his prior cooperation with the FBI”
  • whether the district court abused its discretion “by denying Bickers’s motion for a mistrial based on three emails that were admitted as non-hearsay, especially when the government did not make the emails’ author unavailable to testify”
  • whether the Eleventh Circuit should send four wire fraud counts back to the lower court “in light of recently developed law” because the government plans to ask the lower court to dismiss those counts
  • whether the lower court made a mistake “in determining loss amount, in finding that Bickers was a high-level decision-maker, or was a manager or supervisor of an otherwise extensive criminal scheme, and [whether] any Sentencing Guidelines error [was] harmless given that the district court confirmed that it would have imposed the same sentence regardless of its Sentencing Guidelines rulings”

The government says it might drop the four wire fraud charges, which carried a 168-month sentence—the same as Bickers’ total overall sentence. Bickers could have gotten 292 to 365 months, according to presentencing guidelines, the government recommended 210 months. With 70 letters of support from political allies, church members, and relatives, Bickers got 168 months, or 14 years. She is serving her time in federal prison in Florida.

The government says the sentence was “reasonable, and the district court would have imposed it regardless of its Guidelines calculations.” In addition, according to the brief, “the three additional topics [Bickers] claims should have been permitted were inadmissible character evidence, unrelated to Mitchell’s character for truthfulness, and not relevant. When Mitchell testified about his FBI cooperation, he did not lie—he merely did not remember certain details. Any errors as to Mitchell’s testimony were harmless because the jury had ample opportunity to assess his credibility as a cooperating witness, and there was overwhelming evidence of Bickers’ guilt.”

During the trial, Bicker’s attorneys said her salary payments did not count as wire fraud, while the government argued that Bickers had lied on her financial disclosure form. At that time, the judge denied Bickers’ motion.

“As to wire fraud, and in light of recently developed case law,” the brief states, “the government will seek voluntary dismissal of those counts, and therefore, the Court should remand for resentencing.”

We’ve asked Bickers’ attorney, Drew Findling, about how much time could come off Bickers’ sentence if the four wire fraud charges are thrown out and will update with any reply.

Bickers was convicted and is serving time in federal prison after a jury found her guilty of steering contractors E.R. Mitchell and C.P. Richards and their “upfront money” to others at City Hall while she was a city employee. In exchange, Mitchell and Richards got sweetheart contracts for snow removal, sidewalks, and bridge repair. Bickers, who was director of human services under the Kasim Reed administration, was instrumental in Reed’s election campaign. Bickers also was convicted of failing to report that income—about $2 million—on her taxes. She also is the pastor of a church, has had several businesses in Georgia and other states, and—after she was forced to resign from Atlanta City Hall—landed on her feet at the Clayton County Sheriff’s Department, quickly rising from a modest correctional officer’s salary as a jailhouse chaplain to six figures as chief of staff.

Sources with ties to law enforcement had claimed Bickers was the real power behind the throne, running CCSO during former Sheriff Victor Hill’s suspension even though she was not a sworn law enforcement officer. Hill later was convicted on unrelated charges of violating inmates’ rights under color of law and is serving an 18-month sentence in federal prison in Arkansas.

Anytime Bonding gets first cut of Bickers’ assets

Bickers, who had been making about $60,000 at City Hall, failed to disclose her lucrative political consulting income, as well as the money she got from brokering the deals for Mitchell and Richards. The government seized her Lake Spivey home on Bay View Drive, along with a 2014 GMC Acadia Denali, along with two 2013 and two 2014 Yamaha WaveRunners.

After a tug-of-war between Chris Bohrer‘s Anytime Bonding Company and the feds, both sides agreed that the company will get $211,683.97 from the sale of Bickers’ house, which had two security deeds against it. Any remaining money from the sale of the house and other forfeited items, after expenses, will go to the U.S. government. U.S. District Judge Steve C. Jones signed off on the order June 21.

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....

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