Former DeKalb commissioner convicted of extortion

Former DeKalb County Commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton was found guilty of extortion by a jury in Atlanta on Nov. 2.

According to the United States Department of Justice (DOJ), a federal jury in Atlanta convicted the former commissioner of extorting a DeKalb County subcontractor in connection with a $1.8 million contract.

According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, from about May 2014 to August 2014, Barnes Sutton, 63, of Stone Mountain, demanded monthly payments of $500 from a subcontractor. She later increased her demand to $1,000 per month. The subcontractor made the first $500 payment in June 2014 at a restaurant in Decatur and the second $500 cash payment in July 2014 at Barnes Sutton’s residence, according to a press release.

DOJ officials said the FBI disrupted Barnes Sutton’s continued demands in August 2014, and that Barnes Sutton also accepted a $5,000 cash bribe from an FBI confidential source who had business before the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners.

The press release states that Barnes Sutton was convicted of two counts of extortion. She is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 6, 2023 and faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors.

Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Polite, Jr. of the DOJ’s Criminal Division and assistant director Luis Quesada of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division made the announcement.

The press release states the FBI Atlanta Field Office also investigated the case.

Senior litigation counsel Victor Salgado and trial attorney Jordan Dickson of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section (PIN) are prosecuting the case. Former PIN trial attorney Amanda Vaughn assisted in the prosecution.

Barnes Sutton had allegations of ethics violations—such as purchasing card violations and conflicts of interest—placed against her in DeKalb County as early as 2014. Barnes Sutton was a focus of the DeKalb County Board of Ethics when the board began meeting again in 2021. She served two terms as a DeKalb commissioner before Commissioner Steve Bradshaw unseated her in 2016.

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