The Bill Campbell Trial
The definitive primer to the drama that
will unfold when the former Atlanta Mayor heads to the
Reprinted from the Atlanta – September, 2005
It was a sweltering August afternoon as former Mayor Bill
Campbell stood encircled by supporters at a news conference he’d
call Macedonia Baptist Church in Southwest Atlanta.
He elicited applause and “amens” from the crowd and he quoted
the Bible, a passage from Romans that he had recently read at
the bedside of his dying mother: “I consider that the sufferings
of this present time are not worth comparing to the glory that
is to be revealed to us.”
Then the crowd (which we later learned included me that
organizers had bussed in from a nearby rehab center) trailed out
of the church behind him singing, “Victory is mine.”
The question a year later is whether Campbell will be singing
a different tune at the close of his corruption trial, which is
set to begin September 26.
In a seven-count, 48-page indictment, federal prosecutors
accuse him of organizing and leading a criminal activity that
abused his “position of public trust.” They have remained
steadfast in their claims that Campbell accepted more than
$150,000 in payments in exchange for city contracts, cash they
say he used for free trips, home improvement projects and
gambling sprees. Campbell is also charged with soliciting and
accepting more than $100,000 in illegal campaign contributions,
defrauding campaign donors and filing false tax returns.
Campbell has maintained his innocence, calling the
authorities that examined every aspect of his personal and
private life “forces of evil” motivated by racism. Likening the
probe to an “inquisition”, he compared FBI investigators to
Soviet KGB agents meddling into his personal life.
Whether the trial will support Campbell’s claims of
persecution remains to be seen. What is certain is that 10
former city officials and contractors have already been
convicted of corruption. Prosecutors must now prove that the
two-term mayor not only knew of illegal practices taking place
under his watch, but that he also took no part in, and benefited
from, such dealings.
At a pretrial hearing earlier this year, Campbell, who claims
not to have had any knowledge about the misdeeds of his friends
and colleagues, told reporters that he looks forward to his “day
It will be weeks or months before the final day of the trial.
All we know for sure is that it’s going to be a heck of a
courtroom drama. To prepare for the upcoming scenes, we’ve
compiled a preview of what’s to unfold – from the principle
players to the strategies each side is expected to use.
[THE PRINCIPLE PLAYERS]
» Bill Campbell
The two-term Atlanta mayor served from 1994 to
2002, a tenure that included the Olympic Games and Atlanta’s
dot-com era boob. He is credited with improving public housing
and spearheading downtown revitalization. Atlanta’s third
African-American mayor, Campbell is a Duke University –educated
lawyer, who as a child helped to integrate the Raleigh, North
Carolina, school systems. Campbell, who vehemently maintains his
innocence, earned a reputation while in office of being
articulate, arrogant and a steadfast supporter of affirmative
He now lives in Stuart, Florida (near West Palm Beach), and
is employed by trial lawyer Willie Gary’s law firm.
» Richard Story
The presiding judge for the trial, Story earned a law degree
from the University of Georgia in 1978. He served as chief judge
on the Superior Court for the Northeast Judicial Circuit of
Georgia from 1986 – 1997. He was appointed by Bill Clinton to
the U.S. Districh Court and was confirmed in 1998. Story notably
approved a $192.5 million agreement to settle the class-action
racial discrimination lawsuit against Coca-Cola and sentenced
former Fulton County Commission Chairman Mitch Skandalakis in a
corruption trial. He is considered fair, thorough and
mild-tempered in the courtroom.
» Sally Quillian Yates
The key prosecutor, Yates was acting U.S. attorney at the time
of Campbell’s indictment. No stranger to high-profile cases
involving public figures, she was the lead prosecutor on
corruption cases involving former Dekalb County Sheriff Pat
Jarvis, former Fulton County Commissioner, Michael Hightower and
Fred Prewitt, former head of Atlanta’s Civil Service Board. She
is known as understated and low-key, but well-prepared and tough
in the courtroom. Interesting aside: She is married to local
attorney Comer Yates, who reportedly asked for Campbell’s
support in a 1996 congressional race. Campbell instead supported
Cynthia McKinney, who won. Political analysts say Campbell’s
support was a deciding factor in the outcome of that race.
» Jerry Froelich
The co-lead of Campbell’s defense team, Froelich specializes in
federal criminal defense. He was a former assistant district
attorney in Newark, New Jersey, and a former U.S. attorney in
Atlanta. He defended former prosecutor Fred Tokars, who was
convicted of having his wife, Sara, murdered and also
represeneted Herbert McCall, the former commissioner of the
department of administrative services, who was found guilty of
obstructing the federal grand jury investigation of City Hall.
He was in the national spotlight defending NFL start Ray Lewis,
who was acquitted of murder in a case involving a post-Super
Bowl brawl outside of an Atlanta nightclub.
|The Charges Against Campbell
The executive summary of the 48-page indictment
[Count 1: Racketeering] The count charges
Campbell with conducting the city’s affairs through a
pattern of racketeering activity from 1996 to 2002,
including payments and other benefits from contractors
and consultants and committing campaign fund fraud. This
portion of the indictment lays out allegations of 11
separate crimes. Prosecutors must convince jurors that
Campbell committed at least two out of 11 acts to obtain
a racketeering conviction. Federal investigators must
also show that the acts committed are related and were
[Counts 2,3,4: Corrupt Payments] These counts
charge Campbell with receiving unlawful cash payments of
$25,000, $20,000 and $10,000 in 1999 in connection with
a contract to make city computers Y2K compliant.
Prosecutors allege that Campbell concealed payments
through a series of convoluted financial transactions
and phony invoices.
[Counts 5,6,7: Tax Violation] These charge
Campbell with willfully filing false tax returns for tax
years 1997, 1998 and 1999.
Part of Campbell’s defense is that he passed a lie
detector test – which he took at the advice of his
attorneys. The test was administered by Kendall Shull, a
seasoned polygraph expert who headed the FBI’s D.C.
based polygraph unit until 2001. Campbell says he
answered “no” to these four questions:
||Did you ever take any
official action in exchange for campaign
contributions, cash, gifts, or other
||Did you receive anything of
value in exchange for taking any official action
||Did you know of or did you
participate in any illegal fundraising activity
in connection with your mayoral races?
||In connection with your
races for mayor, were you aware of any illegal