Fulton ex-chairman sentenced to prison Skandalakis lied about payment

Editor's Note: The following story was published in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Feb. 13, 2004

Former Fulton County Commission Chairman Mitch Skandalakis was sentenced to six months in prison and fined $1,000 Thursday for lying to an FBI agent.

Also Thursday, Atlanta businessman George Greene was sentenced to 15 months in prison and fined $10,000. Greene had admitted to paying bribes to former Fulton County Commissioner Michael Hightower and to Josh Kenyon, Skandalakis' chief of staff.

Their sentencing by U.S. District Judge Richard Story concluded a federal investigation of corruption in Fulton County government that lasted nearly four years.

Asked by Story whether he wanted to address the court, the normally loquacious Skandalakis declined. Outside the courtroom, he apologized to his friends and supporters and asked their forgiveness, said his lawyer, David Nutter.

In passing sentence, Story noted that Skandalakis once had a bright future. "Then something went wrong, " the judge said. "It's tragic, not just for you as an individual. It's sad for society."

The FBI began investigating Skandalakis in April 2000 after agents learned that Greene had made payments to Hightower and Kenyon. Greene admitted bribing Hightower and told investigators he also had paid Skandalakis and Kenyon. Kenyon and Hightower pleaded guilty to accepting bribes. Each was sentenced to six months in prison.

During the investigation, FBI Special Agent Joe Tucker asked Skandalakis whether he had taken any official action that benefited Greene or his company, Sable Communications, which had received several large county contracts.

Skandalakis denied voting on any matters involving Greene or Sable, prosecutors said, knowing his statement was false. He had voted in favor of a contract to install a video teleconferencing system on which Sable was a subcontractor.

That contract and another to install pay telephones at the Fulton County Jail paid less than $340,000. But Sable received about $12 million as minority partner in other contracts with Fulton County.

From 1993 to 1999, Skandalakis rose from Fulton County tax protester to state legislator to county government chief. His political rise ended with an unsuccessful race for lieutenant governor in 1998.

Greene, who was sentenced just before Skandalakis, apologized for his behavior.

"I'm truly sorry for what I did, " he said. Noting that he can't change what happened, Greene said, "What I can change is my life. Hopefully, I'm on the right path to doing that. I'm sorry."

From September 1997 through December 1998, Greene paid Skandalakis $5,000 a month from his personal checking account, according to prosecutors. The payments continued, but from Greene's corporate account, after Skandalakis left office. Skandalakis, a lawyer, said the payments from Greene were a retainer fee.

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