Former DeKalb commissioner’s attorney said bribery case now tainted

The attorney representing a former DeKalb County commissioner accused of accepting bribes asked a judge to dismiss the case on Tuesday.

Sharon Barnes Sutton’s attorney, Bret Williams, said his client had improper conversations with two people who also have a relationship with a confidential informant at the center of the case. Those conversations took place this year, and could have been the government’s attempt to influence the defense he is mounting for Sutton, Williams argued.

If the case isn’t throw out, the prosecution should be barred from using the confidential informant’s testimony, Williams said. The informant secretly recorded conversations with Sutton in 2014 and is expected to testify against her if the bribery case goes to trial.

Read more | Former commissioner Sutton latest to face corruption charges in DeKalb

Victor Salgado, an attorney with the Department of Justice’s Public Integrity Section, said the prosecution had no control over who Sutton speaks to. He said the government concluded its relationship with the confidential informant in January 2016.

U.S. Magistrate Judge John Larkins appeared doubtful of Williams’ argument, although he has not yet made a ruling. The judge questioned whether the conversations had any impact on Sutton’s defense.

“I’m very skeptical of the merits of this motion,” Larkins said.

Williams described in court Sutton’s conversations with a friend and an attorney who have ties to the confidential informant. Those conversations amount to prohibited contact by the government with his client, “like passing notes in class,” he said.

Williams said Sutton reached out in June to Odis Williams, a friend and attorney who represented her previously in other matters. Although Sutton initiated the call, Odis Williams made improper remarks about Sutton’s bribery case, according to Bret Williams.

Odis Williams has also represented Morris Williams, DeKalb's former deputy chief operating officer over public works and infrastructure. A court order has kept the identity of the confidential informant in Sutton's case secret, but the description in the indictment appears to match Morris Williams.

“It was a bombshell to me,” Bret Williams said about the conversation between Sutton and Odis Williams.

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

Bret Williams also described a conversation Sutton had with an unnamed friend who is a mutual acquaintance with Morris Williams. The friend allegedly tried to give Sutton information about the government’s case against her, according to Bret Williams.

Reached Tuesday afternoon, Odis Williams said he was unaware that Bret Williams took issue with the conversation he had with Sutton. Odis Williams pointed out that he is still Sutton's attorney in other matters, like the government's inquiry of her campaign spending.

Read more | Former DeKalb commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton subpoenaed again

Odis Williams said he spoke to Sutton in June about her arrest, which some supporters have criticized as excessive in a case that centers on two alleged $500 bribes. Odis Williams said he did not discuss details of the bribery case or defense strategy with Sutton.

“It’s a ridiculous notion that I would be used by the FBI to try to set up a client at the detriment of another client,” Odis Williams said. “It’s a foolish contention.”