A Gwinnett County state senator has been found not guilty on 18 felony counts that he falsified his expense reports to the state.
Sen. Don Balfour hugged his family and friends after the verdict was read and says he has been through hell the past 14 months while the investigation and trial were ongoing.
"What I had said all along is I have made some mistakes, and I have, and I'm fixing those mistakes," he tells WBS's Sandra Parrish.
Balfour, who is clearly bitter, blames the Senate leadership for pursuing the criminal case.
But he says after spending time with his son, who is about to be deployed to Afghanistan, he will be back at his Senate seat when the Legislature convenes next month.
"I'm going to do what's right for the state of Georgia, and I'm going to do right for my citizenship... that's all I'm there for," says Balfour.
The suspension put in place by Gov. Nathan Deal was immediately lifted by his acquittal. The Senate Republican Caucus must now vote by two-thirds majority to reinstate him in the caucus.
"I would hope the Senate leadership would reinstate me as quickly as they took me out," says Balfour.
After the trial, jury foreman Vickie Hamilton told reporters they went through each of the charges and considered only the facts during their two hours of deliberations.
"When you started looking at the dollar amounts and charges, it became [clear] to see are we really here to talk about this; could this have been resolved a different way," she says.
Hamilton believes the state's system of reimbursing legislators should be revamped as a result.
In the meantime, State Attorney General Sam Olens issued a statement following the decision: “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."
The statement goes on to say: "I do not apologize for standing for the principle that no person is above the law. I will never apologize for that principle."