COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - A jury returned not guilty verdicts on all 36 counts in attorney Mark Shelnutt's money laundering trial. "It feels great. I'm just, of course overwhelmed, happy of course. We said from the start we were going to try our case in the courtroom and that's what we did," says Shelnutt.
Shelnutt was accused of crossing the line with his client, convicted drug dealer Torrence Hill, a.k.a. "bookie", in his $9 million a month drug operation. The government contended that Shelnutt collected big bucks in legal fees and tried to conceal them.
Defense attorneys claimed the government paraded Hill's co-conspirators before the court who will not serve one day in jail for their crimes—all in an attempt to convict Shelnutt.
"In one of Bookie Hill's letters he called it the worst case of government corruption and he called it a vendetta that was the evidence presented in the trial. We presented our evidence, the jury heard the evidence," says attorney Tom Whitters.
When the verdict was read, you could hear loud outbursts from family and friends. "My eyes teared up. I could see his sisters and family just crying. I was just thanking God, just so happy, "explained longtime friend, attorney David Smith of Macon.
"I was very nervous, I knew God was going to make a way and I was saying God be the jury for him," says Willene Jackson, a woman Shelnutt once prosecuted and later became friends with 20 years ago.
The government's response to the verdict was very brief. "We accept their verdict. I have no further comment at this time.
Shelnutt says he plans to take some time off during Thanksgiving to give thanks and after that it's back to business.