Former senator's trial coming up and other news from areas around Chattanooga

Former senator's trial coming up and other news from areas around Chattanooga

March 8th, 2014 by Associated Press in Local Regional News

Former senator's trial coming up

FORT PAYNE, Ala. - A prosecutor said Friday he will show that former Alabama Senate leader Lowell Barron gave $58,000 in campaign funds to campaign aide Rhonda Jill Johnson to help her pay a debt to him and a credit card company.

Barron's defense attorney said Barron paid Johnson for the work she did, and she used it to pay bills like everyone else does with a paycheck.

For the prosecution to convict Barron and Johnson, "they've got to prove the work she did is not worth a dime," defense attorney Joe Espy said in a court hearing.

Espy and Assistant Attorney General Bill Lisenby laid out their cases in a hearing in preparation for the trial of Barron and Johnson, which is scheduled to start April 14 in Fort Payne.

State Attorney General Luther Strange's staff got a DeKalb County grand jury to indict Barron and Johnson last year on charges accusing them of diverting $58,000 from Barron's 2010 campaign account and a campaign car for Johnson's personal use. The two have pleaded not guilty.

Barron, a 72-year-old Democrat from Fyffe, served 28 years in the Senate and held leadership positions, including president pro tem and Rules Committee chairman, before losing in 2010. Johnson, 48, of Scottsboro, served on his Senate staff and then on his campaign staff.

State law allows campaign donations to be used for ordinary campaign expenditures and expenses of holding a public office.

Barron's defense has subpoenaed the attorney general to testify in the trial.

Espy said Strange's campaign finance records show Strange paid campaign aide Jessica Garrison $85,000 after his 2010 campaign, and they want to show that bonuses after a campaign are common in Alabama.

Underwear thief hits mall store

DUNWOODY, Ga. - Police are searching for a man who walked into a Victoria's Secret store dressed in all-black clothing and made off with about 40 pairs of women's underwear at a suburban Atlanta mall.

Dunwoody police say the crime happened Thursday at Perimeter Mall, just north of Atlanta.

Police said in a statement that the thief, who has two gold front teeth, concealed the undergarments in a bag and left the store. The stolen items from the Columbus, Ohio-based retailer have an estimated value of $500.

Christie raising money for Deal

ATLANTA - New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is in Georgia to raise money for Gov. Nathan Deal's re-election.

Despite political troubles over lane closures on the George Washington Bridge, the Republican Governors Association chairman continues his fundraising tour for his colleagues.

Republicans are mostly mum about Friday's closed-door luncheon, as they have been about other Christie events since emails surfaced suggesting Christie aides ordered a traffic snarl as political retribution on a local official.

Georgia Democrats eagerly slammed both governors for ongoing investigations of their administrations and their roles in roadway melees. Deal's resulted in part from his administration's slow reaction to a January snow storm.

Deal is likely to face a stiff challenge in November from state Sen. Jason Carter, grandson of the former president.