Learn more about the former DeKalb County commissioner in the AJC's "5 things to know" series.
Photo: Mandi Albright/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: Mandi Albright/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Judge refuses to dismiss charges against former DeKalb commissioner, trial next

A federal judge says former DeKalb County Commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton did not provide evidence that the government had tainted its case against her.

By denying her motion to dismiss the case, U.S. Magistrate Judge John Larkins said the next step is to head to trial.

Sutton is accused of accepting two $500 bribes from a subcontractor who was doing business with the county. The charges allege that the crimes happened in 2014 when Sutton served as the chairwoman of  the commission’s Finance, Audit and Budget Committee with oversight of contracting decisions.

Marshals arrested Sutton at her home in in May and she appeared in court later that day to plead not guilty to the bribery charges. She did not attend the August hearing where her attorney argued why he believed the case should be dismissed.

He said a second attorney, Odis Williams, spoke to Sutton after her arrest and discussed the case. Odis Williams  represents Sutton in other matters, but he may have a different interest in the bribery case, Sutton’s attorney, Bret Williams, said.

Court documents do not identify the man whose recorded conversations with Sutton are the main evidence in the government’s case against her, but the description in the indictment matches Morris Williams. He once served as DeKalb’s deputy chief operating officer.

Odis Williams has represented Morris Williams in the past. According to court documents, the confidential informant met with federal investigators as recently as April to discuss the case.

Larkins’ opinion does not dispute any of these facts, but he said that Odis Williams’ conversation with Sutton did not amount to government interference. Even if Odis Williams had crossed a line, it wasn’t severe enough to dismiss the charges or prevent the confidential information from testifying against Sutton, Larkins wrote in his Sept. 12 opinion.

“There is no indication that the relationship between defendant and defense counsel has been compromised even slightly as a result of those contacts,” he wrote.

Bret Williams also did not prove that the U.S. Department of Justice, which filed the charges against Sutton, had any knowledge of Odis Williams ‘ actions, the judge said.

Bret Williams, Odis Williams and Morris Williams are not related.

Now that these matters have been addressed, Larkins wrote, the case is now certified to proceed to trial. A date has not been scheduled.

Read more | Former DeKalb commissioner’s attorney said bribery case now tainted

Also | Former commissioner Sutton latest to face corruption charges in DeKalb

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