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Sen. Balfour found not guilty on all charges

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ATLANTA (CBS ATLANTA) -

Sen. Don Balfour has been found not guilty on charges of making a false certificate, theft by taking and a count of false statement and writing.

The Snellville Republican was indicted in September. He is accused of illegally claiming legislative expense and mileage pay and double-billing the state and his private employer for some expenses.

Balfour told jurors he was very busy as chairman of the Senate Rules Committee and as an executive of Atlanta-based Waffle House, and that the inaccurate filings were unintentional.

"I have said all along I have made some mistakes. I'm fixing those mistakes," said Balfour.

Balfour and his attorney Ken Hodges said the investigation was politically motivated.

"This is being fueled by somebody that wants to run for governor, who didn't have the adequate experience to know that this wasn't a crime. It was a mistake, a travesty," said Hodges.

Gov. Nathan Deal released Balfour's suspension immediately after the verdict. Balfour wants his position back with the GOP.

"The GOP caucus will have to reinstate me by 2/3 votes and I would hope they reinstate me in about the same half-hour it took them to remove me," said Balfour.

Attorney General Sam Olens issued this statement:

"I am very disappointed in the result of this case. The GBI investigation revealed that Senator Balfour requested and received reimbursements for expenses he did not actually incur: miles he did not drive, days he did not work, hotels other people paid for. Those requests were too numerous and systematic to be simply isolated mistakes. If those requests had been submitted by an unelected state employee, they would have been prosecuted, and a state senator should not be held to a lower standard. I was convinced that this case should be brought. A grand jury agreed.

"At the same time, I have great respect for our jury system generally and for the specific jury that was seated in this case. I thank the jurors for their service and accept their decision, which is final. I also thank Judge Newkirk for handling this case fairly and efficiently.

"I do not apologize for standing for the principle that no person is above the law. I will never apologize for that principle. And I will continue to work every day for the people of Georgia and for the rule of law."

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