Gwinnett bribery probe not over, filing shows

Former Gwinnett County Commissioner Shirley Lasseter’s son has provided information on three targets of an ongoing federal corruption investigation - including at least person one who tried to buy Lasseter’s vote, a court motion filed Monday says.

While cooperating with investigators, John Fanning, Lasseter’s son, recorded a series of meetings with at least one person in which they discussed the sale of Lasseter’s vote on a matter the person believed to be pending before the Board of Commissioners, the motion says. The person ultimately provided $3,000 to Fanning in exchange for Fanning’s assurance that Lasseter would vote favorably on the pending legislation.

Fanning has provided federal investigators with information “on at least two other targets of the FBI’s corruption investigation,” the filing says.

The information is contained in a motion filed Monday in by Fanning’s attorney, William Thomas Jr., who is asking that Fanning receive a reduced sentence based on his cooperation. The motion contains few additional details, but it suggests more charges might be coming in the ongoing corruption investigation.

The motions were filed in advance of Wednesday’s sentencing hearing in federal court of Lasseter, Fanning and Hall County businessman Carl “Skip” Cain.

Lasseter pleaded guilty in May to a federal bribery charge, admitting she agreed to sell her vote on a real estate deal to an undercover FBI agent posing as a businessman. Fanning and Cain admitted they participated in the bribery scheme and also pleaded guilty to drug charges.

Since then, federal authorities have been mum on the continuing investigation. But they have said all three defendants are cooperating.

Thomas’ filing Monday offers the first glimpse of what that cooperation involves. Since pleading guilty, Fanning has “continued to cooperate and had several additional debriefings with the government,” it says.

Fanning initially withheld from the government information about his dealings with another target out of fear of retaliation, the motion said. “Once confronted by the government about his dealings with the target, Fanning completely disclosed the details of his involvement with this individual.”

Lasseter faces a prison sentence of between 46 and 57 months under the federal sentencing guidelines, according to court filings. The guidelines, while not binding on U.S. District Judge Charles Pannell Jr., serve as recommendations and are often influential on federal judges.

In his own court filing, Lasseter’s lawyer, Stephen Patrick Johnson of the Federal Defender Program, asked Pannell to give Lasseter no more than two years in prison.

“There is no doubt that her offense conduct is serious and that she should be punished so that respect for the law is restored,” Johnson wrote. “Just punishment demands incarceration, but not to the extent called for by the guidelines.”

The filing noted that within 12 months after becoming Gwinnett commissioner in 2009, Lasseter found herself widowed, poverty-stricken and in poor health. “Those losses made Ms. Lasseter more vulnerable to temptation,” the filing said.

According to court records, Fanning is subject to a sentence of between 70 and 87 months under sentencing guidelines. He also has asked for an unspecified reduced sentence.

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