Closing arguments Tuesday in City Hall bribery trial

Mitzi Bickers with her defense team, seen here in federal court in Atlanta on Friday, didn't call any witnesses to her defense. The defense and prosecution are expected to square off Tuesday as closing arguments begin in the Atlanta City Hall corruption trial.

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Mitzi Bickers with her defense team, seen here in federal court in Atlanta on Friday, didn't call any witnesses to her defense. The defense and prosecution are expected to square off Tuesday as closing arguments begin in the Atlanta City Hall corruption trial.

Defense declines to call witnesses in case against Mitzi Bickers

Prosecutors rested their case Monday in the federal bribery trial of former city of Atlanta official Pastor Mitzi Bickers. Jurors will decide her fate starting Tuesday after Bickers’ defense team decided against calling witnesses.

Closing arguments in the Atlanta City Hall corruption case are expected Tuesday morning in U.S. District Court after eight days of testimony in which prosecutors unveiled a web of bank transactions, drop-offs involving satchels of cash and lavish spending by Bickers.

The testimony included allegations of influence peddling from Atlanta to Jackson, Mississippi, including an alleged trip to strip club for a public official in an unsuccessful effort to steer contracting in that state.

Bickers, who helped former Mayor Kasim Reed win the 2009 runoff for mayor, served as the city’s director of human services from 2010 to 2013. Prosecutors allege she accepted more than $2 million in bribes from 2010 to 2014 to help steer $17 million in city work to contractors Elvin “E.R.” Mitchell Jr. and Charles P. Richards Jr.

With its final witnesses Monday, federal prosecutors spelled out how Bickers allegedly lined her pockets by steering snow removal contracts to Mitchell and Richards from a pair of 2014 winter storms, including Atlanta’s “Snowmageddon.”

In a surprising move, Bickers’ defense attorney Drew Findling also rested his case on Monday after declining to call a single witness.

Asked by Findling if she wanted to take the witness stand in her own defense, Bickers quietly told the court “I will not.”

It was the first time Bickers had uttered a word during the trial.

In eight days, prosecutors unveiled a sprawling case of alleged bribes and kickbacks transacted over countless cash withdrawals, deposits and wire transfers. They also laid out how Bickers, who earned $58,000 from her city salary, lived a luxurious lifestyle funded by ill-gotten cash. She allegedly used payments from the two contractors to buy a lakefront home in Henry County, along with a luxury SUV, jet skis and enjoyed expensive travel.

The alleged cash-for-contracts scheme also transpired in two Southern capital cities. In Atlanta, Bickers allegedly helped Mitchell and Richards win lucrative snow removal, bridge repair and sidewalk work.

The prosecutors said Bickers, who leads Emmanuel Baptist Church in southeast Atlanta, also tried to get a bite of a more than $1 billion contract to rebuild the city of Jackson’s ailing sewer system and she tried to secure a piece of a convention center hotel contract in Mississippi’s capital city for her and her partners.

Prosecutors presented evidence that Bickers used the lure of luxury hotel stays and first-class flights to impress then-Jackson Mayor Tony Yarber. To charm Yarber, Bickers allegedly paid Atlanta rapper T.I. $30,000 to speak at schools in Jackson. Bickers abruptly pulled up stakes in Mississippi after failing to secure contracts there.

By not calling witnesses, Bickers’ lawyers are relying mostly on their cross-examination. Findling and co-counsel Marissa Goldberg at times sought to seed doubt in the government’s theory of the case or in prosecutors’ interpretation of financial transactions at the center of the accusations.

At other times, such as in their questioning of Mitchell, the attorneys took direct aim at the credibility of prosecution witnesses. Before Mitchell ever reached the stand, Goldberg and Findling attempted to establish him as untrustworthy.

The defense got the go-ahead from U.S. District Court Judge Steve C. Jones to bring up Mitchell’s past work as an informant for the FBI and hammered Mitchell on his business practices.

Closing arguments are set to begin Tuesday morning and could take most of the morning. The jury is could start deliberating as soon as Tuesday afternoon.