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Posted: November 26, 2013 1:27 p.m.

Suspended Ga. lawmaker to go to trial next month

ATLANTA (AP) — A Georgia state lawmaker who was suspended over an indictment accusing him of illegally claiming state pay is set to stand trial next month after his lawyer filed a request for a speedy process.

The trial for Sen. Don Balfour, R-Snellville, is scheduled to start in Fulton County Superior Court on Dec. 16. A grand jury indicted Balfour in September on felony charges of making a false certificate, theft by taking and a count of false statement and writing. He is accused of illegally claiming legislative expense pay and double-billing the state and his private employer for some expenses.

Lawyer Ken Hodges said they requested a speedy trial because his client is innocent and wants to get the allegations behind him. They believe strongly that a jury will find that Balfour did not intentionally turn in fraudulent reports, Hodges said.

"Then he can return back without any cloud of suspicion to representing the folks of the 9th District," Hodges said.

Balfour has been under legal scrutiny for payments that he received for his work in the General Assembly.

He previously agreed to pay a $5,000 fine issued by the Senate Ethics Committee for accepting pay for in-state work and travel on days when he was elsewhere. Lawmakers can only claim that pay if they are conducting official business inside Georgia. They can collect expenses while traveling outside the state if they are part of an approved delegation.

Gov. Nathan Deal earlier this month signed an order suspending Balfour. The Senate Republican leadership reacted swiftly, removing him from his committee leadership positions and suspending him from the Senate Republican Caucus.

 
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