So … what was that all about? From The State newspaper in South Carolina.
“(U.S. District Judge David) Norton heard intense legal arguments and threw out the allegations involving public officials in DeKalb County, Ga. The judge said there is no evidence that an illegal deal was struck or that any public official received anything improperly.
The FBI in Georgia is in the midst of a public corruption investigation in the county that includes parts of Atlanta, an agent in the Pinson/Robinson case testified Wednesday.”
From earlier reporting by The State and others, Florida-based developer Richard Zahn — who pled guilty to other corruption charges — testified this week that the defendants asked him to pay Watson between $50,000 and $60,000 and buy box seats for an Atlanta Falcons game for former DeKalb Purchasing Director Kelvin Walton, to secure contracts on DeKalb’s $1.7 billion sewer system overhaul.
Prosecutors presented no evidence to indicate that Watson took money. So I have to ask … why would the federal prosecutor bother with this charge without that evidence? Prosecutors have evidence that Watson and the defendants communicated with one another — there are references to wire taps and the AJC pulled Watson’s phone records to show that Watson had initiated calls to Robinson’s offices at particularly delicate times — records Watson foolishly tried and failed to redact.
The trial referenced the ongoing FBI corruption investigation of officials in DeKalb. But if they didn’t have the goods, why bother charging Robinson and Pinson with bribery, especially if you’re not immediately ready to charge Watson with a crime on the same evidence?
Something terribly, terribly strange is happening here.
If Watson is innocent, then federal prosecutors implicated him in a corruption scandal without cause, which would be utterly contemptible. If Watson is guilty, but not of anything directly related to the charges, why tip him off to their surveillance? Why give people time to bury evidence and reroute contracts and intimidate potential witnesses?
And if Watson is guilty … and they had the evidence but chose not to present it … then it is possible that Watson has cut a quiet deal with the Department of Justice to avoid prosecution or to cop a plea, and is providing evidence behind the scenes to secure additional convictions elsewhere before disappearing.
In this moment, I am grateful to no longer be on someone’s payroll as a journalist covering Atlanta politics, because I can now engage in rank speculation without caring too much about what that looks like.
Stan, if you want to talk about this, you know how to find me.