Fulton sets Don Balfour trial for Dec. 16
10:15 am, November 26th, 2013
Embattled state Sen. Don Balfour, R-Snellville, is set for trial on Dec. 16 in Fulton County Superior Court.
Balfour’s attorney, Rafuse, Hill & Hodges partner Ken Hodges, recently filed a demand for speedy trial.
Balfour, a Waffle House executive who once chaired the Senate’s powerful Rules Committee, was indicted by a Fulton County grand jury in September on charges of theft and making false statements. He is accused of charging the Legislature for reimbursement of travel to and from the Capitol and per diem expenses for days in which he wasn’t in Georgia. Balfour has admitted to making mistakes in his expense reports and has paid an ethics fine but has denied any criminal wrongdoing.
“We demanded a speedy trial so that we can address the allegations in a courtroom prior to the session,” said Hodges, a former Albany district attorney. “We will prove his innocence, and when acquitted, he can get back to work representing his district.”
Balfour’s prosecutors will be Senior Assistant Attorney General David McLaughlin and Assistant Attorney General Laura Pfister, said state Law Department spokeswoman Lauren Kane.
The trial may prove politically intriguing not just because of Balfour’s office but also because his attorney, Hodges, lost a tight race for state attorney general as a Democrat in 2010 against Sam Olens, a Republican former Cobb County commissioner.
The timing of Balfour’s trial may also make moot discussion about whether his recent suspension from office is purely academic.
A panel appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal, which included former state Supreme Court Chief Justice George Carley and Republican majority leaders from each chamber, suspended Balfour in October.
In the statute that allows for such suspension is a provision that lifts the suspension if the public official is not tried within the next regular or special court term following indictment. In Balfour’s case, if he isn’t tried by Jan. 3, he would be back in office by the start of the next session of the General Assembly on Jan. 13.