Atlanta - Attorney General Thurbert E. Baker announced today that a Fulton County grand jury has returned a true bill of indictment charging Senator Ralph David Abernathy III with 35 felony counts relating to his office. The indictment includes ten counts of theft by taking, ten counts of false statement, ten counts of violation of oath of office, four counts of forgery, and one count of influencing a witness.

The charges involve submitting false expense reimbursement requests to the Georgia General Assembly, forging documents used to substantiate those expenses, and subsequently receiving reimbursement money from the State of Georgia. The count of influencing a witness charges that Senator Abernathy offered to pay a former assistant $2,700 for the purpose of influencing her communications to a law enforcement officer regarding the criminal charges for which he was under investigation. The money was offered so that the witness could tell the Georgia Bureau of Investigation that she had been paid that amount by Senator Abernathy for legislative services that he had submitted for reimbursement when in fact he had not paid her.

The investigation arose as a result of an open records request. In June 1998, Senator Abernathy filed suit against the State and the Georgia State Senate to block disclosure of the requested documents. As a result of the document review undertaken to defend the suit, the Attorney General asked the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to investigate possible wrongdoing by Senator Abernathy. The resulting investigation led to the indictment returned today in Fulton Superior Court.

No arraignment date has been set.