In front of a packed courtroom in DeKalb County Superior Court, suspended county CEO Burrell Ellis was sentenced Wednesday to 18 months in prison on charges he tried to strong-arm county vendors for campaign money.
In sentencing Ellis, Superior Court Judge Courtney Johnson said she “struggled” with crafting a sentence because the trial was “unlike any case that I have handled since I took the bench.”
Suspended DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis is scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday in DeKalb County Superior Court, after a jury convicted Ellis on four criminal charges last week.
The jury of six men and six women unanimously found Ellis guilty of attempted extortion and three counts of perjury in his corruption retrial. He was on trial for strong-arming county vendors into donating to his 2012 re-election campaign.
The trial was Ellis' second. The first ended in a mistrial, after the jury failed to reach a consensus on any of the charges brought against him.
After six days of deliberating, a jury on Wednesday found suspended DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis guilty of attempted extortion and perjury on charges he tried to strong-arm county vendors for donations to his political campaign.
As the verdict was read, Ellis and his wife showed little emotion. The suspended CEO was taken immediately into custody following the verdict. Judge Courtney Johnson set his sentencing for next Wednesday.
After four days on the witness stand, suspended DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis ended testimony Tuesday in his corruption retrial, with his defense team resting its case a few hours later.
During the morning's cross-examination, District Attorney Robert James picked up where he left off Monday. He tried repeatedly to use Ellis’ words against him, relying on the suspended CEO’s testimony during his first trial, as well as secret recordings of Ellis by the state via the then-head of the county purchasing and contracting department. Still, Ellis continued to defend his honesty.
State attorneys got their chance Monday to question suspended DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis in his corruption retrial, with prosecutors trying routinely to catch Ellis in a lie.
But the suspended CEO remained composed and confident as he justified his actions to the jury and rebuffed District Attorney Robert James’ tough, rapid questioning. Ellis maintained his honesty throughout, only going so far to say he once may have “misspoken.”
Suspended DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis, who’s accused of strong-arming county vendors for political donations, took the stand in his corruption retrial once again Friday morning to continue telling his side of the story.
Almost sentence by sentence, Ellis’s attorney walked the suspended CEO through some of the secretly recorded conversations that make up the bulk of the state’s case against him. As he did in his first trial, Ellis stressed any issue he had with vendors was about responsiveness and respect for the CEO’s office, not about campaign donations.
Suspended DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis took the stand Thursday in county superior court to testify in his own defense. Ellis faces nine felony charges over allegations he tried to pressure county vendors of political donations.
Credit Kent Johnson / Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Like a playground bully who says, “Bring me your lunch money, or else.”
That’s how one of the state’s witnesses described his dealings with suspended DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis Thursday, the third day of testimony in the elected county head’s corruption retrial.
Greg Shealey and his wife, Trina Shealey, were called into a meeting with Ellis back in October 2012 about issues with their company’s responsiveness. The couple own National Property Institutes, which had a $1 million contract with DeKalb County to buy and fix foreclosed homes.
Defense attorneys for suspended DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis got their chance to grill one of the state’s key witnesses, using their cross examination to hammer at credibility issues.
Kelvin Walton, who oversaw county service contracts under Ellis, resumed his testimony Wednesday in the retrial of the suspended CEO. Walton was allegedly Ellis’ right hand man, helping the CEO strong-arm county vendors for donations to pay back the debt he racked up during his 2012 re-election campaign.
Kelvin Walton, the former head of DeKalb County's purchasing and contracting department, served as the state's star witness in the first trial against suspended CEO Burrell Ellis. Walton took the stand for the retrial Tuesday, but his credibility was questioned by attorneys on both sides.
Credit Kent Johnson / Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The state wasted no time in bringing its star witness to the stand in the retrial of suspended DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis.
Tuesday the state and Ellis’ attorneys said Kelvin Walton, the man who oversaw vendor contracts under Ellis, lied. Specifically, he lied under oath to a grand jury in 2012 about receiving gifts from contractors.
Ellis’ attorney, Craig Gillen, talked about Walton during opening statements.
Attorney Craig Gillen, who represents suspended DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis, tells the jury Ellis is innocent of the bribery, extortion and perjury charges the district attorney is bringing against him.
Credit Kent Johnson / Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Lawyers in the retrial of suspended DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis delivered opening statements Tuesday in county superior court, with the state and defense painting very different images of the county’s elected chief.
In addressing the jury first, Assistant District Attorney Lawanda Hodges asked the six men and six women to return a guilty verdict on every felony charge the DA’s office is bringing against Ellis. She said the prosecution’s case would be framed by three main themes: “debt, desperation and deceit.”
Friday is expected to be the final day of jury selection in the retrial of suspended DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis.
After a week of culling through potential jurors, attorneys have narrowed the field down from about 200 to a few dozen. They’ll likely get that number down to the 12 jurors plus alternates needed for the trial to begin.
In his second trial, Ellis faces nine felony charges over allegations he was running a pay-to-play scheme with DeKalb County contractors, asking them to submit donations to his 2012 re-election campaign in exchange for business.
Jury selection began today in DeKalb County Superior Court for the retrial of suspended county CEO Burrell Ellis.
Around 40 of the 200 or so potential jurors stood for questioning by the judge, prosecution and defense attorneys. Those who’d been called were asked whether they had prior knowledge of the case or had followed any coverage of Ellis’ first trial last fall.
Suspended DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis’ second trial starts Monday in DeKalb County Superior Court.
Ellis is accused of shaking down county contractors for donations to his 2012 re-election campaign. In his first trial last fall, he faced 13 felony counts of extortion, bribery, perjury and using county employees for campaign work.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.