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White Collar Crimes: GA lawmaker cleared of fraud charges

When a person is accused of white collar crimes, the burden of proof is placed on law enforcement and the prosecution. This means that the accused individual is considered innocent of criminal wrongdoing unless prosecutors can provide enough evidence to demonstrate a person is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Part of the prosecution's burden is to demonstrate criminal intent. In the case of fraud charges, for example, it would be necessary to show that the defendant was knowingly and willfully dishonest with his or her conduct for a conviction to occur.

Not long ago, a Georgia state senator, Don Balfour, was acquitted of 18 felony counts based on allegations of fraud. Law enforcement said that Balfour knowingly took money from the state by falsifying expense reports related to his work as senator. Additionally, he was accused of billing both the state and another employer for the same expenses.

Responding to the charges, Balfour's defense team didn't try to get around errors in his expense requests. However, they claimed that they were made in error, so the senator was not actively trying to defraud the state. As a result, the jury did not find reason to hand down a guilty verdict.

Immediately after Balfour was accused of committing white collar crimes, he was suspended from the Georgia Senate and all of the committees he was involved in. Now that he has been cleared of the claims, however, Balfour can return to public office.

When facing such serious charges, it's important to consider developing a strategy to beat back claims made by law enforcement. In this case, there wasn't enough evidence to show that the senator was actively trying to do something illegal. On the other hand, had the conviction gone through, it's likely that Balfour would have spent time behind his bars and would not have been given another opportunity to serve his state.

Source: Associated Press, "Jury acquits Ga. state lawmaker of all charges," Kate Brumback, Dec. 19, 2013

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