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» Campbell Lawyer: Corruption not mayor’s fault

 

 

Campbell Lawyer: Corruption not mayor’s fault.

Reprinted from the Atlanta Business Journal – March 24th, 2006
By Ryan Mahoney.

Atlanta City Hall was indeed corrupt under Bill Campbell, but it had nothing to do with the former Mayor.

That’s according to Jerry Froelich, who served on Campbell’s defense team along with Billy Martin and Fred Orr. In a March 21st interview with Atlanta Business Chronicle, Froelich painted a picture of Campbell as a man who committed no crime himself and had no idea that some of his top subordinates were up to no good.

Campbell was found guilty March 10th of tax evasion following an eight-week federal trial, but was acquitted of racketeering and bribery.

“There was clearly corruption in the city.” Froelich said. “But there’s corruption in every city. If you look at the people that Bill Campbell brought in, he had no reason to suspect the corruption.

As evidence, Froelich offered that longtime Campbell friend and city Chief Operation Officer Larry Wallace once worked for the U.S. Justice Department, while Deputy Chief Operating Officer Joseph Reid took on Atlanta’s struggling empowerment zone. Both have pleaded guilty to taking payoffs.

Froelich pointed out that not all of the dozen or so convictions of city workers, contractors and Campbell supporters leading up to the ex-mayor's own were for corruption. Some of those convicted became witnesses in the government's case against Campbell, testifying that they delivered bribe money to him or raised illegal donations for his re-election campaign.

Froelich said Campbell's trial paralleled that of HealthSouth Corp. founder Richard Scrushy -- who was acquitted of fraud charges in 2005 after every chief financial officer in the company's history pleaded guilty and testified against him -- in that, "whether you're the president of a corporation, the mayor of a city or the president of the United States, you have to put a certain amount of trust in people."

Even with the corruption, Froelich said, he thought city contracts and renewals were not awarded unfairly during the Campbell administration, as prosecutors have alleged.

"With [Chicago Mayor Richard] Daley and people like that, that was 'a way to make the city work,' " Froelich said, "and then with black politicians, it's 'bribery' and things like that. ... That's politics."

Froelich disputed prosecutors' claim that the city interfered with their attempts to gather evidence and interview witnesses. He also said the press conferences Campbell conducted after court and the ex-mayor's appearances on local radio during the trial were not his idea.

"My clients don't talk to the press," Froelich said. "They don't talk to the government. They don't talk to anybody."

A partner with McKenney & Froelich in Midtown, Froelich described himself as a detail-oriented attorney who does most of his own research and reads every document associated with a case. A former state and federal prosecutor, he has represented everyone from Southern Co. (against federal tax fraud charges, which were abandoned) to criminal defense attorney Fred Tokars (who was sentenced to life without parole for ordering the 1992 murder of his wife).

Concerning the tax evasion charges on which Campbell was convicted, Froelich said the former mayor just didn't consider his poker winnings to be reportable income. He said he felt confident those were the only charges on which his client would be convicted as soon as he finished his closing argument.

Campbell received no special treatment or advantage from the jury of eight blacks and four whites, Froelich said. He also said several jurors recently told the defense team they were not confused about the date of one alleged bribe, which other jurors have said caused them to discount that particular charge.

"How about all the other dates?" Froelich asked. "There were three bribery charges -- specific, substantive bribery charges -- which he was found not guilty of that had dates."

Although Froelich had nothing but praise for the jury, he took a shot at several government witnesses he said were given a pass on other alleged crimes in exchange for their testimony, particularly Michael Sullivan, Campbell's contract compliance chief.

In addition to spending anywhere from a few months to more than two years behind bars, Campbell also stands to lose his law license and has paid "a hell of a price," Froelich said. Froelich said he has known Campbell for about 20 years but never represented him until the trial.

Like Campbell, "I am fiercely loyal and I respect loyalty," Froelich said. "I'm loyal to my clients, and with loyalty, sometimes you overlook faults."

Campbell returned to Florida following the verdict. Froelich, who took Campbell's case nearly pro bono -- though he likened the experience to going to the Super Bowl -- will now concentrate on other clients.

 

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