Burrell Ellis

Local
6:32 pm
Tue October 28, 2014

Witness Credibility Issues Complicate DeKalb Corruption Cases

The prosecution's case against DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis relied heavily on Kelvin Walton, shown above.
Credit Kent Johnson/AJC

Two major DeKalb County corruption cases are in jeopardy. Part of the reason is the prosecution’s star witnesses have struggled with credibility issues.

It’s a constant dilemma for prosecutors – how much to rely on witnesses with questionable character.

DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis is accused of shaking down county contractors for campaign donations. During the trial, DeKalb's former purchasing director Kelvin Walton was the state’s star witness. Walton cooperated with prosecutors only after being caught accepting gifts from contractors and lying under oath.

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Local
4:22 pm
Fri October 24, 2014

Cynicism Among DeKalb Residents Remains High Following Ellis Trial

Suspended DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis.
Credit Kent Johnson / Atlanta Journal-Consitution

It’s been an eventful week in DeKalb County. The corruption case of suspended DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis ended with a hung jury. And a much-anticipated audit showed lax oversight of commissioner spending.

Some DeKalb residents have resigned themselves to a certain level of impropriety, while others see light at the end of the tunnel.

DeKalb politics has been anything but dull - kickback schemes, federal probes, forced-out school board members, and most tragically an assassination of the county’s sheriff-elect.  

So it makes sense residents would be a bit cynical.

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Local
3:51 pm
Wed October 22, 2014

Residents Offer Sharply Differing Views On Ellis Mistrial

Suspended DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis.
Credit facebook.com/burrellellis2012

The corruption case of suspended DeKalb County CEO ended Tuesday in a mistrial and DeKalb residents have sharply differing reactions.

Many took issue with the jury itself, which after two weeks of deliberation couldn’t agree on any of the 13 felony charges. The judge in the case repeatedly scolded the jury to get past personal issues and at one point told them to act like adults.

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Local
4:38 pm
Tue October 21, 2014

Judge Declares Mistrial in Ellis Case

Burrell Ellis during the trial
Credit Kent Johnson / Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A DeKalb County judge Tuesday declared a mistrial in the case against suspended county CEO Burrell Ellis. Ellis is accused of shaking down county contractors for campaign contributions. He maintained his innocence during the trial and took the stand to defend himself. 

The all-female jury deliberated for 11 days, but couldn’t reach verdicts on any of the 13 felony charges against Ellis. DeKalb County judge Courtney Johnson had repeatedly urged the jurors to try harder to come to consensus. Those efforts ultimately failed. 

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Burrell Ellis Corruption Trial
3:29 pm
Tue October 21, 2014

Judge Issues Allen Charge to Burrell Ellis Jurors: What Does That Mean?

DeKalb County Chief Executive Officer Burrell Ellis has been suspended since his indictment in June 2013.
Credit DeKalb County

The jury in the corruption trial of suspended DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis is wrapping up its eleventh day of deliberations. Monday, the judge gave the jury what is known as an Allen charge.

  DeKalb Superior Court Judge Courtney Johnson had already instructed the jury to keep deliberating twice when they said they couldn’t reach a verdict.

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Local
7:21 am
Wed October 15, 2014

DeKalb Commission Frees Up Money for Ethics Board

Members of the DeKalb County Board of Ethics (shown here) have tabled complaints against former county staffers Kelvin Walton and Nina Hall. Walton resigned and Hall was fired after their testimony in the corruption trial of suspended DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis.
Credit Lisa George/WABE News

The DeKalb County Commission has freed up $90,000 in funding for the county ethics board, which was reconstituted just last year to deal with mounting ethics issues.

DeKalb Interim CEO Lee May very publicly announced in June he was getting his fellow commissioners to allocate money for a Chief Integrity Officer, an investigator and an assistant, three full-time employees to help clean up the county’s ethics problems.

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Politics
4:14 pm
Mon October 6, 2014

Fate Of Ellis Now In Jury's Hands

Suspended DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis.
Credit facebook.com/burrellellis2012

After three weeks of testimony, attorneys for both sides in Burrell Ellis’ corruption trial delivered their closing arguments Monday. Whether Ellis goes to prison or retains his position as DeKalb County CEO is now up to a jury.

Ellis faces charges of extortion and bribery, the latter of which carries a sentence of up to 20 years. Three county contractors testified Ellis shook them down for campaign donations. Another contractor testified Ellis wanted a bribe of $25,000.

Ellis denies all wrongdoing and his lawyers claim the charges are politically-motivated.

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Local
1:59 pm
Fri October 3, 2014

Burrell Ellis Denies Cutting Vendor Contract As Trial Winds Down

Suspended DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis on the witness stand Friday.
Credit WSB-TV

Both sides in the corruption trial of suspended DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis rested their case this afternoon. It came shortly after Ellis concluded his third day on the witness stand. He remained defiant, denying he shook down county vendors for campaign donations and insisting his comments on wiretaps are being taken out of context.

DeKalb District Attorney Robert James played a wiretap that includes Ellis saying he told his deputy Kelvin Walton to cut the contract of a vendor - Austell-based Power and Energy Services - that had refused to donate.

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Local
2:14 pm
Thu October 2, 2014

Ellis Denies Retaliating Against Those Who Refused To Donate

Suspended DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis on the witness stand Thursday.

Updated 4:10 p.m.

Suspended DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis and DeKalb District Attorney Robert James squared off for the first time Thursday in Ellis’ corruption trial. James grilled Ellis over allegations he shook down county vendors for campaign contributions.  

Under cross-examination, Ellis denied strong-arming vendors and insisted any issues between him and vendors were over poor customer service and unreturned phone calls, not donations. 

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Local
1:20 pm
Wed October 1, 2014

Ellis Takes Stand Seeking To Refute Corruption Charges

Suspended DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis on the witness stand.

Updated: 5:06 p.m.

After more than two weeks of listening to prosecutors make their case, suspended DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis got the chance Wednesday to tell his side of the story.

Ellis is on trial for allegedly shaking down county vendors for campaign contributions, then lying about it under oath.

On the witness stand, Ellis insisted he never strong-armed vendors for donations.

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Local
5:50 pm
Tue September 30, 2014

As Defense Calls First Witnesses, Ellis Confirms He’ll Testify

Suspended DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis.
Credit facebook.com/burrellellis2012

Supporters of suspended DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis took the stand Tuesday for the first time in his corruption trial.

Several high-profile figures testified, and more are to come, including Ellis himself.

It was an open question whether Ellis would take the stand. Before the defense called its first witness, the judge wanted a direct answer from Ellis.

Judge Courtney Johnson: Do you personally want to testify or not?

Ellis: Yes.

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Local
6:05 am
Tue September 30, 2014

Ellis Defense To Begin Calling Witnesses

Suspended Dekalb County CEO Burrell Ellis.
Credit Kent Johnson / Atlanta Journal-Consitution

Lawyers defending suspended DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis in his corruption trial are expected to call their first witnesses Tuesday.

So far, only witnesses supporting the prosecution’s case have taken the stand.

Among the witnesses expected to testify for Ellis are Congressman Hank Johnson and former DeKalb school board chair Eugene Walker. Ellis’ wife may also testify. Still unclear is whether Burrell Ellis, himself, will take the stand.

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Local
5:41 pm
Fri September 26, 2014

Ellis Defense Paints Key Witness As Untrustworthy

Suspended Dekalb County CEO Burrell Ellis.
Credit Kent Johnson / Atlanta Journal-Consitution

Lawyers defending suspended DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis against corruption charges finished questioning the state’s star witness Friday.  

Ellis defense attorney Craig Gillen asked DeKalb purchasing director Kelvin Walton whether Ellis ever ordered him to retaliate against contractors that didn’t give political donations.

Gillen: There was never an occasion where Mr. Ellis would say to you, 'gee, I don’t like so-so, do not pay them.' That never happened, did it? 

Walton: No.

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Local
4:27 pm
Thu September 25, 2014

Ellis Defense Grills State’s Star Witness

Judge Courtney L. Johnson talks with defense attorney Craig Gillen (left) Tuesday.
Credit Kent Johnson/AJC

The defense team for suspended DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis got its first chance Thursday to cross-examine the state’s star witness in Ellis' corruption trial. It comes after two days of testimony from DeKalb purchasing director Kelvin Walton, who for months wore a wire for prosecutors.  

Ellis defense attorney Craig Gillen was quick to make sure the jury knew Walton had already lied under oath prior to Ellis’ trial.

Gillen: During the course of your session before the special purpose grand jury on May the 2nd you willfully lied several times didn’t you, sir?

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Local
4:07 pm
Wed September 24, 2014

Key Witness Testifies Ellis Sought To End Vendor Contract For Political Reasons

Kelvin Walton testified for a second day today in the Burrell Ellis corruption trial in DeKalb County Superior Court (photo taken September 23, 2014).
Credit Kent Johnson/AJC

The state’s star witness in the corruption trial of suspended DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis testified for a second straight day Wednesday. 

On the witness stand, DeKalb purchasing director Kelvin Walton, who for months wore a wire for prosecutors, said he and Ellis discussed shutting out county vendors who didn’t respond to Ellis’ phone calls for campaign donations.

During one exchange, Walton said Ellis told him to phone a county vendor that had been unresponsive to his calls for campaign contributions.

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Local
3:19 pm
Tue September 23, 2014

State's Star Witness Testifies Against Ellis

Kelvin Walton, director of Purchasing and Contracting for DeKalb County, identifies suspended Dekalb County CEO Burrell Ellis as he testifies in court Tuesday afternoon.
Kent Johnson/AJC

A key witness in the state’s corruption case against suspended DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis testified Tuesday. Kelvin Walton, who was in charge of vendor contracts for the county, described Ellis as a bully who used him to help pressure county vendors for campaign contributions.

On the witness stand, an emotional Walton apologized to DeKalb residents for his actions. He said he had “nothing left to lose” and wanted “to come clean.”

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Politics
5:08 pm
Mon September 22, 2014

Burrell Ellis Assistant Forced To Testify

Suspended DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis.
Credit facebook.com/burrellellis2012

The former assistant of suspended DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis was forced to testify Monday in Ellis’ corruption trial, despite invoking her Fifth Amendment right to remain silent.

Sitting beside her attorney on the witness stand, Nina Hall held back tears as she repeatedly cited the Fifth Amendment.

"On the advice of my counsel I’m exercising my right to remain silent," said Hall.

She repeated that more than two dozen times. In almost every case, the judge ordered her to answer the prosecution’s questions.

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Local
5:03 pm
Fri September 19, 2014

Ellis Chief Of Staff Testifies He Warned Of Potential Ethics Issue

Suspended DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis.
Credit facebook.com/burrellellis2012

The former chief of staff of suspended DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis took the witness stand Friday in Ellis’ corruption trial. Hakim Hilliard told jurors he raised ethics concerns to Ellis about canceling a vendor contract shortly after Ellis unsuccessfully attempted to solicit a campaign donation from the vendor.

Ellis is accused of shaking down vendors for campaign contributions.

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Local
4:19 pm
Thu September 18, 2014

Second Vendor Testifies Ellis Pressured Company To Donate

Suspended DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis
Credit facebook.com/burrellellis2012

Day three of testimony in the corruption trial of suspended DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis centered on more witness testimony claiming Ellis pressured them to donate to his re-election campaign.

Ellis is accused of shaking down county vendors for campaign contributions. He has denied all wrongdoing.

DeKalb vendor Greg Shealey, a co-owner of the Lithonia-based National Property Institute, took the witness stand and said he felt forced to donate to Ellis’ re-election campaign, or else lose his contract with the county.

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Local
5:36 pm
Wed September 17, 2014

Business Owner Says Ellis Threatened To End Contract Without Donation

Suspended DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis.

It was day two of testimony in the corruption trial of suspended DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis.

A DeKalb vendor took the stand and testified work with the county dried up after his company refused to donate to Ellis’ re-election campaign.  

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Local
3:12 pm
Wed September 17, 2014

Burrell Ellis Trial: Quick Review

Suspended DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis

Now that the trial of suspended DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis has begun, here are some of the events leading up to the trial.

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Politics
3:13 pm
Tue September 16, 2014

Attorneys Deliver Opening Statements In Ellis Corruption Trial

Suspended DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis.

Lawyers in Burrell Ellis’ corruption trial delivered opening statements Tuesday in a DeKalb County court room. It comes 15 months after the suspended DeKalb CEO was indicted on felony charges of bribery, extortion, and theft.

Speaking to a jury of ten women and two men, DeKalb prosecutor Lawanda Hodges said Ellis used his position as CEO to solicit campaign contributions, retaliate against those who didn’t give, then lied about it afterward.

"Power. Punishment. Perjury. That, members of the jury, is what the evidence will show you this case is all about," said Hodges.

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Local
4:50 pm
Mon September 8, 2014

Lawyers in Ellis Trial Vet Potential Jurors

Suspended DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis.

The corruption trial of suspended DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis kicked off today with jury selection.

Ellis faces 13 felony charges including theft, bribery, and allegedly shaking down county vendors for campaign contributions.

Lawyers from each side vetted potential jurors for competence or bias.

DeKalb prosecutor Lawanda Hodges questioned a juror who said he didn’t like snitches. The prosecution is expected to use secret recordings and informants in their case against Ellis.

Hodges: Do you make a distinction between surveillance and snitches?

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Local
6:00 am
Mon September 8, 2014

Jury Selection in DeKalb County CEO Corruption Trial Begins Today

Jury selection begins this morning in the corruption trial of suspended DeKalb County Chief Executive Officer Burrell Ellis.

Ellis faces 13 felony charges including theft, bribery and extortion. The allegation is that he pressured county vendors into contributing to his re-election campaign.

Gov. Nathan Deal suspended Ellis after his indictment last year; Deal then appointed county commissioner Lee May to serve as Interim CEO.

Ellis is an attorney. He won election as CEO in 2008 after serving two terms on the DeKalb County Commission.

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Local
10:01 pm
Tue June 24, 2014

DeKalb Ethics Board Launches Probes Into Two More Commissioners

The DeKalb ethics board is launching investigations into two more commissioners.

The DeKalb County ethics board Tuesday launched investigations into two more county commissioners over alleged misuse of county-issued credit cards. One commissioner is already under investigation.

The board voted to investigate thousands of dollars of charges by Commissioners Sharon Barnes Sutton and Commissioner Larry Johnson, as well as an aide to Barnes Sutton. Both commissioners say the purchases in question were for legitimate government business.

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DeKalb County
4:23 pm
Fri May 9, 2014

Ethics Complaints Move Forward Against Ellis, Boyer, County Staffers

The DeKalb County Board of Ethics is moving forward with two separate ethics complaints against suspended county CEO Burrell Ellis. He also faces criminal corruption charges. Ellis's trial is scheduled to begin in early September.

The DeKalb Ethics Board will move forward with complaints against County Commissioner Elaine Boyer and suspended CEO Burrell Ellis.

The board approved investigation of two different complaints against Ellis. One relates to the criminal corruption case against him. The other alleges Ellis conspired with Director of Finance Joel Gottlieb and then-Director of Watershed Management Francis Kung’U to prevent accurate reading of water use at a condominium complex in Clarkston.

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DeKalb County
7:00 am
Thu May 8, 2014

DeKalb Board of Ethics To Hear Long List of Complaints

DeKalb County Commissioner Elaine Boyer is just one elected official in the county currently facing an ethics complaint.

The agenda for Thursday night's DeKalb County Board of Ethics meeting included complaints against the county’s suspended CEO, the acting CEO and a county commissioner.

A newly-reconstituted board will address those complaints and several others. This time last year, the DeKalb’s Ethics Board could barely meet, as it had only four of seven positions filled. But now there is a full complement, chaired by attorney John Ernst.

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Local
4:20 pm
Tue April 1, 2014

Contentious Hearings Wrap Up in DeKalb CEO Corruption Case

Suspended DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis during a break at Tuesday's hearing.

Lawyers in the corruption case of suspended DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis wrapped up two days of contentious pretrial hearings Tuesday. Much of the debate centered on what would be allowed as evidence in the upcoming trial.

Ellis' attorneys continued to argue District Attorney Robert James is politically motivated and should be removed from the case due to prosecutorial misconduct. They also said secretly captured audio and video of Ellis should be inadmissible because it was taken without his consent.

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Local
3:34 pm
Mon March 31, 2014

Alleged Ellis Video Focus of DeKalb Corruption Hearing

Suspended DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis.

A pretrial hearing took place Monday in the public corruption case against suspended DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis.

Ellis faces 14 felony charges alleging he shook down county contractors for campaign contributions.

At the hearing, Ellis’ attorneys argued District Attorney Robert James should be disqualified from prosecuting the case due to misconduct issues. They said James is politically motivated and may be withholding secretly captured video of Ellis. 

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Politics
3:56 pm
Thu March 13, 2014

Bill Calling For Nonpartisan CEO Elections in DeKalb Voted Down, But Still Alive

Rep. Mike Jacobs, R-Brookhaven
Credit Ga. House of Reps.

The state House Thursday rejected Senate Bill 95 calling for nonpartisan CEO elections in DeKalb County, but the legislation can be considered again next week.

On the House floor, Mike Jacobs, R-Brookhaven, suggested the strong Democratic majority in DeKalb was hurting the county.

“There is no incentive for candidates for CEO to talk to Republican voters,” said Jacobs.

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