Georgia’s Attorney General’s office has announced the indictment of a former state employee on charges of accepting $4,000 in bribes. According to the AG’s office, Peter Brown, who was employed by the Georgia Department of Labor, solicited bribes from a contractor he was charged with supervising in 2011. In exchange, the state alleges that Brown promised the contractor future contracts with the state. According to the state, Brown accepted $4,000 cash during an undercover sting operation run by the GBI. A Cobb County grand jury indicted Brown last Thursday.
Under Georgia law, bribery is committed when an individual gives or offers a thing of value to a person acting on behalf of the state (or local government) for the purpose of influencing the performance of his or her official function. A state official also commits bribery by accepting a thing of value for such improper purposes.
Cash is obviously within the category of items that are potential bribes, although ultimate the conduct and intent of the person accepting of giving the item in question will determine whether or not it was a bribe under the law. Some items, however, are excluded from the category of “thing of value,” because they are routinely accepted and given in the course of regular interactions with state officials. These items include single meals, awards, food and drinks at certain events, small gifts less than $100 in value, and other trifles that would typically not be expected to influence a public official. Bribery of public officials or accepting bribes by public officials is a felony punishable by a maximum of twenty years imprisonment and a large fine.
Our Georgia criminal lawyers have handled numerous public corruption cases in both federal and state court. One of the key elements of a bribery charge is intent. The State will have to show that the money was given with the intent to influence the official, or received by an official for an improper purpose. Political contributions and gifts do not constitute bribes. There has to be something more.
There have not been many bribery charges brought in Georgia recently. It will be interesting to see how this case develops.