Prominent Columbus attorney arrested on drug charges

Mark Shelnutt, Source: Muscogee County Jail
Mark Shelnutt, Source: Muscogee County Jail
Columbus attorney Mark Shelnutt, 2009
Columbus attorney Mark Shelnutt, 2009

By Lindsey Connell - bio | email | Twitter

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) – A Columbus attorney is in trouble with the law again.

Mark Shelnutt, a well-known criminal defense lawyer, was arrested at the Columbus Government Center Thursday by the GBI and agents revealed he's at the center of a drug investigation.

Shelnutt faces eight counts of Distribution of a Controlled Substance.

[Web Extra! Click here to read an official GBI warrant.]

GBI agents say they started investigating Shelnutt when a confidential informant came to them and said Shelnutt was providing him with prescription medications.

According to agents, Shelnutt distributed Xanax, Oxycodone and Hydrocodone to the informant over a period of three months.

Arrest warrants state Shelnutt distributed the prescription pills at places like the Red Lobster on 13th Street, his law office downtown and even the Columbus Government Center.

In a press release the GBI released Thursday it states: "The controlled medication that Shelnutt was distributing is subject to being highly abused and addictive, especially in circumstances when it is not being prescribed and monitored by a licensed physician. Controlled medications can only be distributed or dispensed by licensed physicians, authorized medical practitioners or pharmacists."

Agents say the encounters were all recorded on audio and video at different locations in Columbus.  

[Web Extra! Click here to read the GBI's news release.]

Following Thursday's arrest, Shelnutt was questioned at the Columbus GBI office on Macon Road for nearly 3.5 hours.

Back in May of 2009, Shelnutt was charged with 31 counts of money laundering, three counts of false statements, one count of attempted bribery, and one count of witness tampering for allegedly accepting drug money for legal fees.

All those charges were dismissed in a federal trial in November of 2009.

[Web Extra! Federal Press ReleaseFull-page indictment ]

Shelnutt is currently representing Lillian Dion Burkett and her son, Bobby Jo Burkett, in the River Road Pharmacy arson case. Columbus Fire officials say the Burketts spearheaded a local oxycontin ring and they were pushing prescriptions for the pills through the River Road Pharmacy.

Now a criminal defense attorney, Shelnutt previously worked as a prosecutor for the District Attorney's Office.

He has bonded out of the Muscogee County Jail and has waived his rights to a preliminary hearing.

Because of his familiarity with the local judicial system, District Attorney Julia Slater has requested a special prosecutor in this case. District Attorney Joe Hendricks, Appalachian Judicial Circuit, has been appointed as a special prosecutor by the State Attorney General's Office.

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