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UPDATED: Lasseter Requests Character Reference Letters

Former Gwinnett commissioner asks some Duluth officials, local business and civic leaders, and personal friends to write letters tothe judge who will be sentencing her.

Updated 2:39 p.m., Aug. 8

Former Gwinnett County Commissioner Shirley Lasseter has emailed Duluth city officials, the president of the Gwinnett chamber, local civic leaders, and personal friends to request that character reference letters be addressed to the judge who will preside over her Sept. 5 sentencing. Lasseter has pleaded guilty to federal bribery charges.

In her email, Lasseter asked that the letters be emailed to her defense attorney, Stephen Johnson.

Lasseter pleaded guilty May 31 in federal court in Atlanta to accepting bribes from an undercover FBI agent posing as a real estate developer. The bribe was in exchange for Lasseter's support for a proposed real estate development in Gwinnett County. She faces a sentence of up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

What is your reaction to Lasseter's request? Tell us in the comments below.

"I don’t know if this reduces my sentence – but I do know that the Judge reads them all in order to get to know the person before him," Lasseter said Wednesday in a response. "These letters will give him a glimpse into the person’s life he is about to sentence. I do know this Judge is supposed to be very fair and equitable so I want to give him the greatest opportunity to know about the real person standing before him during my sentencing. So far he has just heard the Federal Governments side."

Jim Maran, president of the Gwinnett chamber, and Duluth Police Chief R.D. Belcher are among those who Lasseter requested letters from.

Lasseter resigned her District 1 post on the Gwinnett County Commission after entering her guilty plea. Before serving on the commission, Lasseter was a longtime mayor of Duluth. Gwinnett District 1 includes Suwanee, Duluth and Sugar Hill.

Her son John Fanning and Carl “Skip” Cain also are scheduled to be sentenced on the same date. They pleaded guilty to participating in the bribery scheme and to drug trafficking.

The sentencing hearings, originally scheduled for Aug. 6, were in Atlanta to facilitate matters relating to the defendants’ cooperation into an ongoing investigation into corruption in Gwinnett County.

Judge Charles Pannell Jr. will preside over the sentencing hearings at 2 p.m. Sept. 5 in Courtroom 2307 of the Atlanta Division of U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.

Here is the text of Lasseter’s Aug. 7 email:

Dear Friends -

My attorney, Stephen Johnson with the Federal Defender’s Office, has asked that I get as many character reference letters that I can get for him to give to my Judge – The Honorable Judge Charles Pannell, Jr. I would definitely be grateful if you would write a letter on my behalf to my Judge.

My sentencing date is September 5th, 2012 so I would appreciate it if you could get to your computer as quickly as possible. Please be honest, tell what I have done that you feel worthy and I truly ask you speak from your heart.

It is most appropriate for you to email this letter to my attorney but very important that you address it to the Honorable Judge A. Pannell, Jr. In so doing, please let me know you have sent it – you can copy me or simply just send me an email saying you have sent a letter to my attorney. I want to know so I can be sure I have enough support letters for the Judge to read.

My understanding is this makes a huge difference with the Judge. I pray you will find the time to do this immediately. Thank you all for being part of my life! I am so sorry if I have disappointed any of you in any way. Certainly not my intentions to do so. 

With much appreciation - Shirley

My attorney’s email is: Stephen_P_Johnson@fd.org (underscores after Stephen and after P)

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Timothy B Abbet August 08, 2012 at 08:19 PM
Sure thing, Shirley. Just as soon as soon as YOU write a letter to each and every citizen of Gwinnett County and tell us the REAL story of how graft and corruption permeates our county government, and YOUR personal role in it. Also include in that letter how you plan to return the salary paid to you as county commissioner.. We paid you to represent the best interests of Gwinnett County, NOT to commit criminal acts, all the while trying to further YOUR PERSONAL INTERESTS.
bob August 08, 2012 at 08:43 PM
Shirley is delusional.
Tom Wood August 09, 2012 at 07:16 PM
I just looked up Judge Charles A. Parnell, Jr.'s office address and sent him a letter regarding this matter, asking him to apply the same standard of justice that he would to an average citizen. I am so weary of politicians expecting to be treated differently than those they swore to serve. Get a few gushy letters stating all of the wonderful things she has done, then Shirley expects to skate with a slap on the wrist. Willful acceptance of a bribe is still a crime in Gwinnett County, and remorse AFTER being caught and convicted just doesn't cut it. As the old saying goes: 'Don't do the crime if you can't do the time'.
Jim Regan August 10, 2012 at 02:13 AM
Tom what a wonderful idea all citizens should send Judge Parnell a letter expressing our opinions on what Shirley's sentence should be.

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