Saturday, March 11, 2006
ATLANTA, March 10 -- Former mayor Bill Campbell was acquitted Friday of lining his pockets with payoffs while guiding Atlanta through a period of explosive growth that helped secure its place during the 1990s as a world-class city. The jury convicted him, however, on three counts of tax evasion.
Campbell, 52, could be sentenced to nine years in prison and $300,000 in fines, but legal experts have said it is doubtful he will get the maximum sentence. The judge did not immediately set a sentencing date.
The federal jury took a day and a half to find Campbell not guilty of racketeering and bribery after a seven-week trial that put his womanizing and his high-rolling, jet-setting ways on display with his wife sitting dutifully in the courtroom for most of the proceedings.
Campbell sat stone-faced as the verdict was read.
"I obviously have great regrets that the jury found me guilty of anything. . . . I know that I'm innocent," Campbell said afterward outside the courthouse. He remains free on bail.
Campbell described the tax charges as "fairly minor," saying they were tied to his income from speeches and public appearances. He said he has always admitted that he kept poor records of that income.
He stressed that he was vindicated of the "substance" of the trial.
The trial -- with more than 60 witnesses, including two women with whom he had affairs -- tarnished a long record of achievement, beginning at age 7, when Campbell became the lone black child to integrate the public school system of Raleigh, N.C.
Campbell, who served two terms as mayor from 1994 to 2002, was indicted two years after leaving office, snared in a federal corruption investigation that has led to the convictions of 10 other former city officials and contractors.
Federal prosecutors charged that Campbell ran the biggest city in the South with a "What's in it for me?" attitude and regarded contractors who wanted to do business with Atlanta as "human ATMs."
Prosecutors said he took more than $160,000 in cash, campaign contributions, junkets and home improvements in exchange for city contracts, and spent it on gambling trips to Mississippi River casinos and other getaways with his mistresses.
The defense countered that Campbell's extra money came from his gambling winnings and speaking engagements, and that Campbell's subordinates had used his name without his knowledge to enrich themselves.