ATLANTA (AP) — A judge said Monday he won't dismiss an indictment against Georgia state Sen. Don Balfour, who is accused of double-billing the state and his employer for some expenses.
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Henry Newkirk rejected the request by Balfour's lawyers to dismiss the grand jury indictment on felony charges of making a false certificate, theft by taking and a count of false statement and writing.
The trial is set to begin Dec. 16.
Balfour has been under legal scrutiny for payments that he received for his work in the General Assembly. Defense lawyer William Hill has said his client believes he's being unfairly targeted for inadvertent mistakes.
At a court hearing on Friday, Hill argued that the state's prosecution of Balfour is unconstitutional because it violates the concept of separation of powers. He added that the state's September indictment of his client violates the exclusive authority of the Senate to discipline its members for misdeeds associated with their official duties.
Greg Lohmeier, a lawyer for the state, countered that separation of powers doesn't exclude the attorney general's office from following through on its duty to prosecute wrongdoing and that the provision in the state constitution that allows the Senate to punish its members doesn't exclude them from prosecution.
Balfour 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 last 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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