A federal judge advanced the federal fraud case against LGBTQ city council member and Atlanta mayoral hopeful Antonio Brown to the trial phase. The trial will likely occur long after the November election.
Over the course of several pretrial proceedings earlier this year, Brown and his attorneys tried to block an evidentiary transcript of statements the council member made to investigators while they conducted a ruse designed to get him talking.
Investigators recorded his statements, then executed a warrant on his phone and residence. In August, a federal judge denied Brown’s motion to toss the recordings and cleared the case to go to trial.
In a statement to Project Q Atlanta, Brown decried the criminal justice and indictment process as “one-sided.” He wants to reform it, he said.
“Right now, you have a grand jury that hears only from a prosecutor that’s presenting a case from their perspective without the defense,” Brown said. “And then a grand jury is asked to reach a decision.”
“I spoke with Gov. [Brian] Kemp about the fact that it needs to be reformed,” he added.
A federal grand jury indicted Brown — the only LGBTQ member of the city council — on multiple fraud charges last July and alleged that he faked loan documents to buy a Mercedes C300 and a Range Rover.
He stands accused of attempting to defraud several financial institutions. Prosecutors say he took out loans and made credit card purchases, then falsely claimed he was the victim of identity theft.
U.S. Attorney BJay Park charged Brown with wire fraud, mail fraud, bank fraud and making false statements on a bank loan application. Brown staunchly and consistently maintains he is innocent of the charges.
The allegations of misconduct date to 2012 and continued into 2017, prosecutors said. The indictments relate to alleged conduct before Brown was elected to the council in 2019.
Since taking office, he stayed at the center of a flurry of progressive proposals, called for reforming Atlanta police and closing the city jail. Earlier this month, he was one of a handful of members to vote against a proposed police and fire training center that activists called “Copy City.”
Brown also organized racial justice protests last summer as he helped launch the People’s Uprising.
‘I am absolutely innocent’
Brown launched his mayoral campaign in May by calling the criminal case an effort to “divide and distract us.”
“So let me clear that up right now, once and for all. I am absolutely innocent,” he said at the time. “Let me repeat that. I am absolutely innocent.”
“Furthermore, let me state unequivocally Atlanta deserves a mayor with honesty and integrity. I would not be running for mayor if I felt any concern about the outcome of this case,” he added.
Brown is the only LGBTQ candidate for mayor this year, making big LGBTQ-specific promises to voters. He is among five emerging frontrunners who recently discussed LGBTQ issues and plans with Project Q. Of the five he has raised the least funds but among the most individual donors, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Due to a pandemic backlog, the trial probably won’t take place until next spring, court officials told the AJC. The charges could bring up to several years behind bars. Any elected official convicted of a felony also must vacate their seat immediately, according to city law.