Mitzi Bickers to appeal conviction in Atlanta City Hall bribery case

Pastor and political operative was recently sentenced to serve 14 years in prison

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Attorneys for former city of Atlanta official Mitzi Bickers on Wednesday filed a notice of her intent to appeal her March conviction on bribery and other charges in a cash-for-contracts scheme at City Hall.

Bickers, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in southeast Atlanta, was found guilty of nine of the dozen felony counts against her by a jury of six men and six women. The counts included conspiracy to commit bribery, money laundering, wire fraud and filing false tax returns.

U.S. District Court Judge Steve C. Jones last week sentenced Bickers to serve 14 years in prison and ordered her to pay restitution to the city of Atlanta of almost $2.96 million. She has been held on house arrest until contacted to report to prison in Alabama.

Bickers was the first person to face a trial in the sprawling City Hall probe. An appeal was expected.

Attorneys for Bickers did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

Bickers, a get-out-the vote guru, helped Kasim Reed win his first campaign for mayor in 2009 and later took a role in his administration.

Bickers, who had no direct role in contracting, was accused of using her influence to help steer millions in city construction contracts to prominent Atlanta contractors Elvin R. “E.R.” Mitchell Jr. and Charles P. Richards Jr. while also demanding a cut of the proceeds.

Prosecutors said Bickers pocketed more than $2 million in the scheme, depositing the funds in 11 banks. To avoid questions about the funds, prosecutors alleged she deposited just shy of the $10,000 threshold that requires financial institutions to report such deposits to the federal government.

Drew Findling, one of Bickers’ attorneys, said after her March conviction that a possible avenue of their appeal would rest on the alleged involvement of a then-high-ranking city official, Cotena P. Alexander. Alexander, an operations director for Atlanta’s public works department during the period when prosecutors said the bribes occurred, was referenced throughout the trial by prosecutors, witnesses and in exhibits.

Alexander was suspended after her name came up during the trial and was later fired by Mayor Andre Dickens.

Bickers’ defense team subpoenaed Alexander, but they were notified by prosecutors during the trial that she planned to exercise her constitutional rights under the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination.

“We did not have the benefit of cross examining that person,” Findling said after the jury delivered its verdict. “It created a lot of difficulty.”