A political consultant and legislative aide is facing a 29-count indictment related to his secretive smear campaign against a county commissioner.
The indictment against Bill McKinney, which was unsealed Thursday, says he illegally created an independent campaign committee and failed to report $28,000 in contributions and numerous expenditures.
The indictment also charges McKinney with a felony for allegedly trying to hush a witness in the investigation.
The charges stem from McKinney's three-month campaign against Gwinnett County Commissioner Kevin Kenerly. Kenerly, an incumbent, faces Jodie Rosser next week in a runoff election for the District 4 county commission seat.
McKinney has said the case is about his right to speak out against a politician he says is dishonest. But Kenerly says the case is about an illegal campaign to damage his reputation from the shadows.
The case began in March, when McKinney said he paid Las Vegas-based Elite Investigations $3,000 to follow and videotape Kenerly during a three-day gambling trip with developers. The video was meant to harm the political career of Kenerly, who has long fought claims he is too close to developers.
McKinney said he blamed Kenerly for land purchases the commission made in his district in recent years. McKinney said he believed the county paid too much for the land.
"I decided to gaslight the guy to put him on TV and the newspapers," McKinney said.
On April 26, according to investigators, McKinney opened a bank account _ beatkevin.com _ with a $6,500 check from a deceased friend's widow, Nancy Allison Walter. She, too, is named in the indictment for elections violations.
Walter said Thursday she opened the account as a favor to McKinney, who sought to expose wrongdoing by Kenerly but was worried about retaliation. She said she wrote no checks from the account and had nothing else to do with it.
"He would from time to time bring me deposits to put in the bank account," Walter said, adding McKinney said it was his money.
According to prosecutors, at least $21,000 more flowed into the beatkevin.com account in cash payments during the next nine weeks. And money was paid out for video editing, production and DVD replication, as well as for printing and mailing, Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter said.
In early June, McKinney hired someone to hand deliver DVDs of the Kenerly casino video to local media outlets, he said. Other DVDs were anonymously delivered to television news stations and some aired portions of the video. The accompanying packets included hotel bills and deed records linking Kenerly to a Gwinnett County developer who was seen in the video.
In late June, McKinney registered a Web site, beatkevin.com, using the name of his deceased friend, Bob Walter. McKinney then mailed copies of the casino DVD to Republican voters throughout the district, he now admits.
Voters who went to the Internet site were forwarded to another Web site run by Bob Griggs, a neighborhood activist and Kenerly rival. But Griggs had nothing to do with the mailers or the Web site.
However, the e-mail address and cell phone number used as contact information for the site were McKinney's.
McKinney denied on numerous occasions having anything to do with the mailings or the Web site, also sending e-mails to Griggs and others denying he was involved. He now says he lied to avoid embarrassing his friend and boss, state Rep. John Heard, R-Lawrenceville.
"If he had registered and reported, so voters would know who was sending them the information," Porter said, "we wouldn't be here today."