Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Feds Checking If Barnes Pulled Strings for Streat; Prosecutor Wants 6 Charges Dropped

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Feds Checking If Barnes Pulled Strings for Streat; Prosecutor Wants 6 Charges Dropped

Article excerpt

Byline: Terry Dickson and Walter C. Jones , Times-Union staff writers

The U.S. Attorney's Office has filed three open records requests to determine if Gov. Roy Barnes influenced the special prosecutor who dismissed felony charges against state Sen. Van Streat, D-Nicholls.

Special prosecutor Pete Skandalakis announced last week he would seek the dismissal of six counts against Streat, four of violating his oath of office and two of making false statements. Skandalakis, whom Barnes appointed, announced last week there was not enough evidence to convict Streat.

The open meetings requests seek information from Barnes, Skandalakis and state Attorney General Thurbert Baker, U.S. Attorney Rick Thompson said yesterday in a prepared release.

The information returned will help determine whether there is federal jurisdiction in the case, Thompson said.

The inquiry could be delayed if it were not for extraordinary circumstances, he said.

"It is of paramount importance that the public is assured that an appropriate law enforcement agency is reviewing the entire series of events including any contact which may have occurred between the Governor's Office and the special prosecutor whom he appointed," Thompson said.

Skandalakis eventually dismissed an indictment that had been returned by a Fulton County grand jury. That indictment said Streat helped convicted killerer Ronald Gaither obtain transfers and was rewarded with $8,000 in campaign contributions that he did not disclose.

Skandalakis said Streat did what other senators do, provided constituent service, and that he may have failed to recognize how devious convicted criminals could be. Streat returned the money after Gaither, frustrated with not getting the transfers he wanted, tried to hire someone to blackmail Streat.

Skandalakis is still filing an ethics complaint against Streat. He also is negotiating a plea bargain with Baker's former aide, Sam Tillman, for ordering the destruction of official documentation that Tillman requested preferential treatment for a different state prisoner before he joined the attorney general's staff. But the destruction order was while he was on staff, which makes it illegal.

Joselyn Baker, the governor's spokeswoman, declined to comment yesterday on Thompson's inference that Barnes might have influenced Skandalakis.

Skandalakis said yesterday that he had "no contact at all" with Barnes as he reviewed all the evidence presented to him in the Streat case and that he would cooperate fully with Thompson.

"I feel confident about my decision. He's welcome to my entire file," Skandalakis said.

Skandalakis said he could not speculate on what Thompson is looking for.

The open record requests also ask for all the documentary evidence used to obtain the indictment as well as all information furnished to Skandalakis by Streat's lawyer. …

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