Former DeKalb County Commissioner Stan Watson, left, walks toward the county courthouse before his arraignment Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2017. Watson pleaded not guilty. MARK NIESSE / MARK.NIESSE@AJC.COM

Ex-DeKalb Commissioner Stan Watson pleads not guilty

Former DeKalb County Commissioner Stan Watson pleaded not guilty Tuesday to a charge of theft by conversion for allegedly receiving advances of more than $3,000 for government trips he never took.

Watson didn’t speak in court as his attorney, Robert James, waived arraignment and entered the not guilty plea.

Watson withdrew advance checks early last year for conferences in Chicago and Savannah, but then he resigned from office in March 2016 before those trips took place. 

He reimbursed $3,586 to the county government a year later, after Channel 2 Action News and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on his travel advances. County policy required unused travel advances to be returned to the county immediately, according to DeKalb District Attorney Sherry Boston’s office.

James, the county’s former district attorney, said he hasn’t yet seen the evidence in Watson’s case.

“In this country, we have a criminal justice process, so let’s see how it plays out,” James said after the court hearing. “I cannot advise him which way to go until I review the evidence. We’ll let the process play out and see where it leads us.”

Watson is no longer an elected official after his unsuccessful campaign for DeKalb tax commissioner last year. Watson had represented about 350,000 residents in east DeKalb Commission District 7 since his election in 2008. He previously served in the Georgia House of Representatives.

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