Georgia State Sen. Don Balfour (R-Lawrenceville, Snellville)
ATLANTA -- Lawyers picked a jury Monday for a Georgia lawmaker accused of claiming per diem pay and mileage reimbursements for in-state work on days that he was out of the state.
Suspended State Sen. Don Balfour (R-Snellville) was indicted in September on 18 counts of false statements and theft by taking.
In opening statements Monday afternoon, Chief Assistant State Attorney General David McLaughlin said Balfour is an experienced accountant who knew better.
McLaughlin admitted that while the amount involved was not large, he told jurors the case was not about money.
"It's about respecting and being loyal to a system," he said.\
McLaughlin said evidence would show Balfour even submitted the same expenses to both the State and his Waffle House employer for some out of town trips.
Defense attorney Ken Hodges admitted Balfour had undergraduate and master's degrees in accounting, was once a CPA and began his Waffle House executive career in accounting.
But Hodges claimed Balfour got out of accounting because he hated it and he is not a detail person.
Hodges said Balfour simply made some mistakes and did not claim tens of thousands of dollars in expenses he could have.
He said the son of a Baptist minister went out of his way to help people and is not the thief prosecutors claim.
Hodges said Balfour, his wife, minister and others will take the stand to defend his character and reputation.
Acting on the recommendation of a special panel last month, Governor Nathan Deal suspended Balfour from the Senate seat he's held for nearly 20 years.
The same day his GOP colleagues stripped him of all leadership positions.
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Henry Newkirk has estimated the trial will take two or three days.
If convicted, Balfour faces thousands more in possible fines and up to 10 years in prison.
His attorneys filed for a speedy trial to try and clear his name so the former Senate Rules Chairman can retake his legislative seat when the General Assembly convenes next month.
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