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Judge denies Sen. Don Balfour motion; case to head to trial

Sen. Don Balfour

Sen. Don Balfour

Sen. Don Balfour is headed to trial after a judge denied a motion to throw out charges involving false per diem requests.

On Monday, a judge rejected Balfour’s attorney’s argument that the man’s indiscretions should — and have — been punished by the state Senate.

“We are prepared for trial and are confident that the jury will see it the same way that the Senate Ethics Committee did in that these were inadvertent errors that he has admitted and regrets,” attorney Ken Hodges said. “There was never intent to submit the certificates in error and this is not a crime.”

Attorney William Hill argued in court Friday that the indictment was unconstitutional.

“It invites a violation of all of these well-established constitutional principles (of the separation of powers),” Hill said.

But a lawyer with the attorney general’s office said that argument would mean that legislators are immune from prosecution.

“What (the defense) is really saying is General Assembly members are above the law, and that they should be treated differently,” said prosecutor Greg Lohmeier.

The judge’s ruling means that Balfour’s Dec. 16 trial will move ahead.

The Snellville senator faces 18 charges — 16 counts of making false certificate and one count each of theft by taking and false statements — involving seeking state reimbursement at times when lobbyists’ disclosures show Balfour was out of state.

While Balfour is currently suspended from office while the charges are pending, the trial is expected to be complete before the General Assembly reconvenes in January.