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Lawyers Give 2 Portraits of Atlanta's Ex-Mayor

In closing arguments, the prosecution says Bill Campbell is a corrupt man who took bribes. The defense paints him as a civil rights leader.

March 09, 2006|Jenny Jarvie | Times Staff Writer

ATLANTA — Former Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell listened to lawyers spar over his legacy Wednesday during closing arguments in the 7-year-old federal corruption case.

Campbell, 52, is charged with seven counts of racketeering, bribery and income tax fraud.

"Your voice will be the only voice, the last word on what the defendant did in the city of Atlanta," Assistant U.S. Atty. Russell Vineyard told the jurors. "Let your verdict speak the truth about the mayor's conduct."

Prosecutors said Campbell indulged in high-stakes gambling and extravagant extramarital affairs, whereas defense lawyers portrayed him as an honorable family man and civil rights hero who had been unfairly targeted by the federal government.

The government began its investigation of Campbell in 1999 -- when he was serving his second term as mayor -- but did not charge him until 2004.

More than 80 witnesses have testified during the seven-week trial, which has tarnished Campbell's record as mayor of Atlanta.

From 1994 to 2002, Campbell was host to the Olympics and two Super Bowls, rehabilitated public housing and expanded the city's airport.

But he also left the city with an $80-million budget deficit and a crumbling sewer system.

More than 100 spectators, including Campbell's wife and siblings, crammed into the tiny courtroom in the Richard B. Russell Federal Building.

Vineyard said Campbell's tenure as mayor could be summed up in five words: " 'What's in it for me?' Those words, his own words, show what governed his conduct as mayor."

Prosecutors said that in all of 1999, Campbell withdrew $69 from his Wachovia bank checking account.

Yet in July 1999 alone, prosecutors said, he vacationed with his wife and children in Puerto Rico, flew to Miami with a long-term girlfriend, Martina Jimenez, and then traveled to Paris with another girlfriend, Marion Brooks.

"The summer of 1999 was just a snapshot of how Mayor Campbell conducted his secret life with corrupt payoffs," Vineyard said. "The defendant didn't need to use an ATM. He had human ATMs."

Twelve city officials and city contractors have pleaded guilty or have been convicted on corruption-related charges.

Prosecutors said that Campbell's associates bribed him with cash, but the defense contended Campbell's subordinates made the deals without his knowledge.

Defense lawyer Billy Martin told the jury that the government had not proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the mayor led an enterprise of corruption. He argued that Campbell's extra income came from his gambling winnings and speaking engagements.

Martin reminded jurors that Andrew Young, a civil rights leader and former mayor of Atlanta, recalled from the stand how Campbell was the first black child to integrate public schools in Raleigh, N.C.

"Some people might say, 'Come on! We're going back there?' " Martin said. "Yes, we're going back there. That's where Bill Campbell started before the FBI and the IRS came in."

He suggested that the title of the 2003 movie "Kill Bill" aptly described the government's prosecution of Campbell.

"They stooped so low," Martin said. "They hope they can make you so mad at Bill Campbell that you lose sight of justice."

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