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Duluth residents shocked but sympathetic in Lasseter case

DULUTH -- Like many of her friends, Stacie Stamper was shocked to hear of Shirley Lasseter's guilty plea to accepting bribes in federal court this week and the official's subsequent resignation from public office.

Stamper's sense of shock, however, was overshadowed by an "immense sadness" for the 64-year-old county commissioner and former Duluth mayor of 14 years.

"There's so many good things she did," Stamper said. "To think that one thing could tarnish it ... this whole career of public service has just been negated."

Some of those who knew Lasseter better than most spoke their piece Friday afternoon shortly after hearing the news of her guilty plea to accepting bribes related to a real estate deal.

A top prosecutor accused Lasseter on Thursday of selling her office and betraying constituents.

Lasseter admitted to accepting a total of $36,500 in bribes in exchange for her vote in favor of a proposed pawn shop on Boggs Road in District 1, which she has represented on the board since 2009.

She could now face up to a decade in federal prison.

Stamper and other friends of Lasseter said it could have been a case of desperation for the former commissioner.

"You don't know what her financial situation was," Stamper said. "If something happened, and you lost everything, you don't know what you'd do. Don't judge folks until you're up against that situation."

Added Stamper: "Don't throw stones."

Duluth resident Becky Samford, a close friend of Lasseter's, agreed.

"She is not a crook. She is a woman whose husband died recently and left her with a tremendous amount of debt," Samford said. "I'm not saying what she did was right. I think she was a desperate person. Someone threw her a lifeline, and she grabbed it."

Sixteen-year-old Adam Smith of Duluth, however, said it doesn't excuse her behavior.

"When you are in a public office, you always will be subject to scrutiny for your actions, as you should be," Smith said. "You can't act like that and expect to get away with it."

Longtime Duluth resident Theresa Kelly said the whole affair has left her feeling uneasy.

"It goes to show you never really know people ... not like you think," Kelly said. "It took guts to admit she did it; I'll give her that. But what she did was wrong, and she needs to pay for what she did."

Lasseter became the third commissioner to step away from the embattled board in the last two years while facing the possibility of criminal prosecution.

Lasseter's son, John Fanning, 34, and Carl "Skip" Cain, 65, also pleaded guilty to participating in the bribery scheme and to cocaine trafficking. They both face up to 10 years in prison and a minimum of five years. All three defendants face fines of at least $250,000.

Fanning is a former member of Gwinnett's zoning board of appeals, which his mother appointed him to. Cain, of Flowery Branch, is an associate of Lasseter's who works in the trucking business.

At a press conference Thursday, U.S. Attorney Sally Yates said Lasseter "sold her office and betrayed the citizens" of Gwinnett.

Cain reportedly acted as the "bag man" for Lasseter and Fanning, arranging bribes required for their official approval and setting up meetings with them for the payment of the requested bribes. Cain was paid a total of $10,000, which he demanded as a fee for arranging the involvement of Lasseter and her son. Fanning's cut was to be a 50 percent ownership stake in the pawn shop, Yates said.

An undercover agent told the defendants that he "laundered money for drug dealers and that drug trafficking proceeds would fund" the proposed pawn shop on Boggs Road.

All three defendants were released on $10,000 bond Thursday.

Lasseter, whose term was marked by the death of her husband and self-described health ailments, had announced in February she would not be seeking another term. Her District 1 Commission seat included the Duluth and Suwanee area.

Stamper said Lasseter's career in public service to Duluth and Suwanee is now "tarnished."

"It's like if you paint a beautiful picture, and then somebody comes along and slings mud on it," Stamper said. "As hard as she's worked and as much as she's done ... it really breaks my heart that this is how people may remember her."

Staff Writer Josh Green contributed to this article.

Comments

Gwinnettsince1991 2 years, 5 months ago

Right is right and wrong is wrong regardless of the situation.

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HonestIngine 2 years, 5 months ago

Are you kidding me? She is a thief, a crook, a liar, and deserves to spend the 10 years in the Duluth Jail, the one she built... The prison is full of innocent people. She did enough stealing when she was in office...You reap what you sow.....

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pac 2 years, 5 months ago

Why would you be sympathic to someone who stole from you?

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TOWG 2 years, 5 months ago

Don't do the crime if you can't do the time. I have no sympathy for this woman at all. She is a criminal.

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kevin 2 years, 5 months ago

Many holes in this story. First, if all these so-called friends of hers (developers) was so saddened,why didn't they help her out in "other" ways before it came to this? Stamper is really a joke in this column. What she did betrayed the taxpayers and I only wonder how many more times this took place over all those years. This is the main reason why taxpayers should NEVER re-elect anyone. The FBI has judged her. We do not need to. The good Lord will be the final judge. She probably pleaded guilty to this one charge so more didn't come up. That is how I see this deal. And yes, Lassiter did betray the taxpayer. Second. This involved 3 people. If her son was involved in drugs, I am sure their whole family got benefits from the cash involved. Third. The last idiot was even shaking down the pawn shop owner for a whopping 50% of the profits, which their drug money was going to fund. Shirley really screwed herself with this bunch of idiots. Sooner or later they all get caught. The chicken comes home to roost. One less crook to pay for that wastes our taxpayer money. Fourth. When are people going to learn that you do not re-elect any politician. Give them their 4 yrs and out. No salary, graft, pension. Simple as that.

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kevin 2 years, 5 months ago

"Fanning is a former member of Gwinnett's zoning board of appeals, which his mother appointed him to. " Is everyone forgetting that Shirley set this up for her and her family back that? How can you say she wasn't a crook? Connect the dots stupid.

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R 2 years, 5 months ago

Folks - please reread her son's testimony where he stated for the recording “he was used to doing things under the table.”… And here he is working with MOMMY?

This wasn't a one-time thing... Her child was raised to cut corners; we aren't throwing rocks - but their very own words.

It really took courage to confirm what you were caught on recordings saying to an undercover FEDERAL Officer?
Times are quickly getting beyond tough for a lot of us out here,

(so yeah lets raise MORE sales taxes – makes sense)

But for a sitting official that testified at the Gwinnett Grand Jury, having this happen makes me wonder if that Grand Jury experience was somehow twisted into a “How to be a Criminal Seminar”?

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"You don't know what her financial situation was," Stamper said. "If something happened, and you lost everything, you don't know what you'd do. Don't judge folks until you're up against that situation."

Added Stamper: "Don't throw stones."

Duluth resident Becky Samford, a close friend of Lasseter's, agreed.

"She is not a crook. She is a woman whose husband died recently and left her with a tremendous amount of debt," Samford said. "I'm not saying what she did was right. I think she was a desperate person. Someone threw her a lifeline, and she grabbed it."

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BufordToo 2 years, 5 months ago

Do we need to go back and compare all those rezonings the Planning Department didn't recommend but the BOC approved anyway against large deposits made in their personal bank accounts? This all too too troubling. So much for a transparent government. Collectively, the BOC should be blown up. Charlotte is still tied to Wayne Hill, Beaudreau is an idiot., Lynette's much too nice a person, and then there's an idiot representing L'vlle named Heard who's been around the political ranks far too long. They all need to go.

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theendthebook 2 years, 5 months ago

Sounds like everyone would have been willing to stone the prostitute, being flawless and all. When you ask why so many people "support" Shirley, it's because we know her. Apparently a lot of you do not. She has no blemishes in 64 years of life, she was widowed, left with no $$, home was foreclosed on and she moved into a 2 bedroom apartment with her son and his dog. Please don't throw her in with Bannister or Kennerly. They have fancy cars, homes and all the toys. Desperate people do desperate things. She is well aware that what she did... was enticed to do... was wrong. She pled guilty because she said she didn't want to waste anymore of the taxpayer's money.

As a veteran, me and all my veteran friends love her. If you ever see all those little crosses and flags in Duluth on Memorial Day, you can thank Shirley for that.

And any parent knows how difficult kids can be. Enough said. Only the flawless should throw her under the jail.

Thanks Shirley for all the good stuff. Some will quickly forget, but those who know you will stick by you.

Thanks Shirley for all the good stuff. Some will quickly forget, but those who know you will stick by you. by theendthebook

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jljustis 2 years, 5 months ago

Cry me a river. She committed illegal acts "in the name of God." This isn't just something that happened a few months ago. She deserves what she gets.

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theendthebook 2 years, 5 months ago

OK.. So I have one flawless so far. Let me go get you some rocks.

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jljustis 2 years, 5 months ago

I’m not perfect; but, I’ve never been involved or agreed to involvement in transport of illegal drugs. I’ve never asked for or received bribes. I’ve never taught children that it’s okay to commit crimes. I’ve never tried to involve family in crimes. I’ve never claimed that my transgressions were because I listened to God. That doesn't seem to bother Shirley, does it? She can do whatever "in the name of God."

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R 2 years, 5 months ago

She sat in on THE GRAND JURY…. Enticed?

To each his own apparently…

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theendthebook 2 years, 5 months ago

I doubt you know the story behind this, but maybe you have more insight than I.

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Sara56 2 years, 5 months ago

Hey, the prostitute wasn't taking tax dollars for her services, was she? And who are you to judge us for judging her? Are we just supposed to let her go after her greedy stupidity? She's no better than anyone else in the jail she's about to go to. If she was so dead broke, where did she get the money to buy the crosses and flags? If I buy some can I get $36K in illegal bribes too? That's a deal!

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R 2 years, 5 months ago

Was this done with her money, other people's money or OURS???

GOOD GRIEF with such a twisted understanding of FACTS, Propeller could get the votes to pass their RFP just as it is now.

As to the little FLAGS, I’ll gratefully thank those that didn't come back from Europe, Pacific, ASIA (Nam) that died to afford HER and others the chance to have served the public trust.

Sorry I can't take a quick poll of THEIR opinion.

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theendthebook 2 years, 5 months ago

She raised funds for the monument without any of your tax money so don't fret. Just sleep better tonight knowing they got another dangerous criminal off the streets. Two flawless right here in Gwinnett. This must be heaven!

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jljustis 2 years, 5 months ago

Drug trafficking is serious and dangerous. You are very right. I bet you didn't even know how right you were when you posted this.

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R 2 years, 5 months ago

OTHER PEOPLES MONEY thank you.

And if it continued dear sir/ma'am? Is THAT what YOU SERVED for?

I bet the "guys" slept well with you next to'em in the trench...

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theendthebook 2 years, 5 months ago

R44, I am sure you know little about trenches or the military. I guess you think she should have taken the money for the Living Memorial honoring troops, foiremen, policemen etc. out of her pocket? In case you didn't hear, she has been broke since her husband died. Let me send you some more boots so you can kick her while she's down, hero. I also fought for people like you too so you could throw your vitriol around about things you know nothing about.

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jljustis 2 years, 5 months ago

Do Shirley a favor. Don’t defend her criminal activity; condemn it. In order for her to be a better person, she should not be coddled or praised. She should face the cold hard facts and change her ways. There is no excuse for her criminal activity. There is nothing that will offset her evil deeds.

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theendthebook 2 years, 5 months ago

I am doing her a favor by defending her against jerks with zero knowledge of the details and believe the first news reports. they always change, and so will this.

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theendthebook 2 years, 5 months ago

jl... i wonder how many "evil deeds" the feds could find in your closet. And I am not "defending her" actions. She herself knows what she did was wrong, has asked for forgiveness and has given many years of her life to helping people. this "sting" probably cost YOU 300,000+

And yes, as a veteran, we fought for people like Shirley lasseter, a widow who is broke, with two hip transplants who STILL did a Dance with the Stars to help out the cancer society. What have you done besides whine alot.

A lot of us know Shirley, and one blemish does not an evil person make, except to you. i wouldn't expect to get any "mercy" from some of the folks here, but there are plenty of us who will. If you lived in duluth, you would know the great things she has done. I will send you guys some rocks since you're so good.

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debbiestorm 2 years, 5 months ago

sympathetic? what about people living on the edge in gwinnett's overpriced and overtaxed, law wage county? try that out sometime....

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