Saturday, March 11, 2006

Campbell guilty of tax evasion

* UPDATE JUNE 13, 2006 *
Campbell sentenced 2-1/2 years in federal prison.

* * * * *
MARCH 11, 2006
Former Atlanta mayor Bill Campbell guilty of tax evasion, but the Democrat is acquitted of corruption:
A jury of seven blacks and five whites deliberated two days before voting to convict Campbell on charges that he had $147,000 of unreported income in 1997, 1998 and 1999. ...
Prosecutors had pushed for guilty verdicts on racketeering, bribery and tax evasion, claiming that Campbell ran City Hall as a criminal enterprise. The government’s case, built from a six-year investigation, was largely circumstantial and produced 1,200 exhibits and more than 70 witnesses.
Asked if he was disappointed that Campbell was only convicted on the three tax counts, U. S. Attorney David Nahmias said, “He’s a convicted felon; he’s going to jail.”
But wait a minute: Where did Campbell get the unreported $147,000 in income? Oh -- that was bribe money from city contractors, including United Water, which sent Hizzoner and his mistress on a romantic getaway to Paris. Ten people have been convicted or pleaded guilty in the massive cesspool of corruption that was Atlanta City Hall during the Campbell era. But the mayor was not guilty of corruption. Right:
Prosecutors continully hammered away at Campbell’s voracious cash spending habits that continually grew during his tenure as mayor.
But his cash withdrawls shrank each year as prosecutors said he was increasingly on the take. He withdrew just $69 from his checking account in all of 1999 even though he took many trips with family and female acquaintances both inside and outside the country, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said Campbell used city contractors as “human ATMs,” dispensing thousands of dollars of cash for him to spend gambling, travel and chasing women.
The prosecution’s final witness was an IRS agent, who detailed Campbell proliferate use of cash.
“Even if every single government witness is lying, Bill Campbell is still guilty of tax fraud, and they can’t wiggle out of that,” assistant U.S. attorney Sally Yates said.
(Note to AJC editors: I think they meant "profligate use of cash," but we get the drift.)

The Campbell trial is a lesson to future corrupt officials: Make sure you get the payments in cash. But it's amazing that Campbell was convicted of anything. The mayor was hugely popular in Atlanta, and his name had come up as a possible running-mate for Al Gore in 2000. The Atlanta papers give the walk-off quote to a local talk-radio personality (we assume what Neal Boortz told them was unprintable):
Consumer advocate and radio talk show host Clark Howard said he was “thrilled” with the verdict.
“Obviously, its a compromise verdict. But the jury said there was not just smoke, there was fire. I just hope he ends up where he belongs — prison. I said years ago on my show that the only thing missing from his shirt was a prison number. Now, hopefully, he’ll get it.”
“The reason I was so vehement with this guy is because he is a human tragedy. He had such great capability and he threw it away in the search for power, for arrogance and the desire for money. He harmed our city and harmed himself. He was a very charming bright man who blew it.”
I predicted from the start that no Atlanta jury would ever convict Bill Campbell of jaywalking, and it turns out I was wrong. As George Will says, being a pessimist means you're never disappointed and when you're wrong, you're pleasantly surprised. Hats off to U.S. Attorney Sally Yates and her team of prosecutors for accomplishing the impossible.

Previous DONKEY CONS coverage
of the BILL CAMPBELL trial

3/9: Campbell case: It's up to the jury
3/3: Mayor Bill's excellent adventure
3/3: Mayor: "I Can't Recall"
2/24: Mayor: "What's in it for me?"
2/18: Hotlanta Mayor's Love Triangle
1/27: Campbell trial: "That's my ho!"
1/18: What did I tell you about Atlanta?
1/17: Atlanta mayor goes on trial today