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Alford plea and resignation ends case against Georgia mayor

The mayor of Snellville, Georgia, has resigned his post after taking a plea deal in a felony case that had to do with tax evasion and illegal use of campaign funds.

The mayor had been suspended from his post since being indicted in 2017 and stepped down after entering an Alford plea to 11 of the 66 charges against him.

With an Alford plea, a person can maintain that they are innocent while acknowledging that prosecutors have enough evidence that a conviction would be likely.

Under terms of the agreement, the former mayor will not go to prison. Instead, he will be under house arrest for six months, which will be followed by 10 years' probation. At age 70, he is suffering from advanced-stage colon cancer, so home confinement may be more reasonable than prison. He also must pay delinquent taxes totaling $40,000.

In the end, he entered Alford pleas to one count of false swearing, one count of false statements, five counts of tax evasion and four counts of theft by conversion. The Gwinnett County prosecutor agreed to drop the other 55 counts the man was facing. Some of the charges against him had to do with accusations he spent campaign funds on such things as cruises and pornography.

During the plea hearing, the former mayor said he is happy the case is over, given this point in his life.

"This thing has been over my life and my head for years," he said, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "Honestly, if I had the physical condition and the financial wherewithal, I would've fought it to the end." He recently disclosed on social media that his wife also is fighting cancer.

He would have been up for re-election next fall. Since there are fewer than 12 months left on his term, his seat can be filled by appointment.

Given his age and his health concerns, the Alford plea made sense for this man. It's part of a criminal defense attorney's duties to help clients assess their situations to determine how to best proceed with their cases. Sometimes that requires considering more than just the criminal case at hand.

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