State rep said to be focus of federal probe

Staff writer Rhonda Cook contributed to this article.

Rep. Tyrone Brooks, D-Atlanta, is the subject of a federal investigation, not the civil rights organization he leads, a federal law enforcement official told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The AJC and Channel 2 Action News reported this week that a federal grand jury has subpoenaed several people to testify about the Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials. Brooks, first elected to the House in 1980, is GABEO’s president.

But, while Brooks told reporters Tuesday he has not been contacted by the FBI or been told he’s a target of an investigation, a federal law enforcement official told the AJC that Brooks is the target. Furthermore, an attorney representing several people subpoenaed in the case told the newspaper that his clients said they were questioned about both GABEO and Universal Humanities, a private charity focused on poverty that Brooks also leads. Neither person was authorized to speak on the record.

John Horn, first assistant U.S. attorney, would not say if his office is investigating Brooks. But, he said, “the Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials is not under investigation, nor do we have any reason to believe the organization was engaged in any wrongdoing.”

Atlanta criminal defense attorney Jack Martin said federal prosecutors do not have to tell someone they are a target of an investigation. There are some exceptions, he added, such as when a person who is an actual target is subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury.

“They don’t always tell you if you’re under investigation,” Martin said, “but usually you can figure it out.”

Brooks said he’s “not surprised” that he is being investigated and said GABEO’s work to uncover those responsible for a lynching of four African-Americans in Walton County is likely why. Two black couples were murdered on Moore’s Ford Bridge in 1946. No one was ever convicted of the crime, and Brooks said he has reason to believe federal agents were involved.

“If I were not involved in the Moore’s Ford lynching case, if we were not pressing the FBI to charge those still living, I would not be standing here with you today,” Brooks said.

Brooks denied any wrongdoing and said no one who works for GABEO is paid.

“I’ve never been accused of corruption nor bribery,” Brooks said. “I’ve never been accused of being anything other than a civil rights worker.”