Sen. Don Balfour (center) and his wife Ginny greet jurors following his acquittal
ATLANTA -- A Fulton County jury acquitted state Sen. Don Balfour on 18 felony counts Thursday morning following a three-day corruption trial.
Balfour was accused of inaccurately claiming mileage and expenses. He told jurors that he didn't dispute filing errant expense reports. His defense team said they were the inadvertent acts of an overworked man. Witnesses estimated the 18 inaccurate reports created overpayments of less than $2300.
"It is amazing the amount of money the state could spend going after an eleven dollar felony case," Balfour said afterward, referring to one of the charges in the indictment.
The foreperson of the jury, Vicki Hamilton of Roswell, said jurors "started looking at the dollar amounts of the charges," and began asking "are we really here to talk about this? Could this have been resolved a different way?"
The Snellville Republican was indicted in September on felony charges of making a false certificate, theft by taking and a count of false statement and writing. He is accused of illegally claiming legislative expense and mileage pay and double-billing the state and his private employer for some expenses.
Attorney General Sam Olens, whose office steered the prosecution, released a statement: "Those (expense) requests were too numerous and systematic to be simply isolated mistakes..." Olens wrote."I am very disappointed in the result of this case."
Balfour called the prosecution "political." His attorney, Ken Hodges, who unsuccessfully ran against Olens in 2010, was more pointed. "This has been fueled by somebody who wants to run for governor, and didn't have the adequate experience to know this wasn't a crime. It was a mistake. It was a travesty," Hodges said after the verdict.
Balfour, who had once been chairman of the Senate's powerful Rules Committee, had been stripped of membership by the Senate Republican caucus. He says he will ask for reinstatement.
* Balfour says travel expense errors were unintentional
* Trial of state Sen. Don Balfour continues
* Judge denies Balfour's bid to drop state's case
* State Sen. Don Balfour indicted by grand jury