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Rhonda Cook

Local news reporter

Rhonda Cook is a native Georgian. She began reporting in 1978 with United Press International and joined the AJC in 1989 with the assignments to cover the Georgia Legislature, politics, state government, prisons and criminal justice matters. In the years since, she has specialized on the criminal justice system.

Latest from Rhonda Cook

Recording reveals campaign donation request

The following conversation is a partial transcript of a recorded conversation played Tuesday during the corruption trial of DeKalb County CEO Burell Ellis. The Oct. 10, 2012, phone call was between Kelvin Walton, DeKalb County’s suspended director of Purchasing and Contracting, and Terry Merrell, the chief financial officer of Merrell ...

Ellis looks for campaign contributions from appointed officials

4:58 p.m. — The jury hearing the corruptiong trial for suspended DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis was sent home for the day.The county’s top purchasing official was told to be back at 9 a.m. Wednesday to continue testifying.4:44 p.m. — DeKalb’s chief purchasing officer said he was afraid he could lose ...

Augusta attorney Jack Long was among lawyers challenging Georgia private probation system on behalf of 13 former probationers. The Georgia Supreme Court heard arguments in the case Monday.

Georgia Supreme Court hears fight over private probation

The Georgia Supreme Court was presented Monday with two questions: Is Georgia’s private probation system a flawed one that puts profits before justice? Or is it a way to keep the the lower courts running and ensure criminals pay their debts? “This is the case being looked at by the ...

Decensea Xavier White/AP

Did Russian mobster incriminate himself in solving rapper’s murder?

Mani Chulpayev provided valuable information that helped solve the murder of rapper ‘Lil’ Phat.But the question that remains is did Chulpayev implicate himself in the murder of Melvin Vernell III in the process?The Georgia Supreme Court’s answer could go a long way in determining if the one-time Russian mobster and ...

Businesses accuse DeKalb CEO Ellis in first week of trial

One by one, business owners said in court this week they felt intimidated by DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis when he asked for campaign contributions, and they feared losing work from the county if they didn’t pay up.Ellis often mixed county business with politics, asking vendors for donations while in ...

Ellis juror dismissed for hardship

4:52 p.m. - A juror in the corruption trial for suspended DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis was dismissed at the end of the day Friday for hardship reasons. The woman, identified as juror No. 12, was working a new temporary assignment when the trial began. The law requires employers to continue ...

Sandra Stepp

Forsyth Co. deputies charge 5 people in ID theft investigation

The Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office has arrested five people suspected of stealing the mail of 127 victims so they could assume their identities.According to a statement from the agency released Thursday, a burglary investigation turned into an identity theft investigation when deputies executed a search warrant at a house in ...

Watershed Mgt. told to cut off vendor refusing CEO’s campaign request

4:32 p.m. — A retired official from the DeKalb County Department of Watershed Management testified Wednesday a hold was issued on authorizing work for an Austell vendor who had declined to contribute to the re-election campaign of suspended Chief Operating Office Burrell Ellis.While Joe Basista was asked not to say ...

Couple found dead in DeKalb hotel room identified

Man, woman found dead in DeKalb hotel room identified

DeKalb County police Tuesday identified the man and woman found dead Monday afternoon inside a Panola Road hotel room as Nathaniel Dumas, 34, and 31-year-old Marquita Smith, both of Stone Mountain.DeKalb police spokeswoman Mekka Parish told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that a maid at the Knights Inn found the bodies around ...

Suspended Dekalb County CEO Burrell Ellis hugs a supporter before he appears before Judge Courtney L. Johnson in Dekalb County Superior Court during opening arguments in his trial Tuesday, September 16, 2014.

Company: County money went away

4:25 p.m. — An Austell company stopped getting calls to service county-owned generators soon after telling suspended DeKalb Chief Operating Officer Burrell Ellis the business would not contribute to his 2012 re-election campaign, a witness testified Tuesday.Eneida Robles, who at the time worked for Power and Energy Services, had taken ...


Today on MyAJC.com

Paul Sampleton Jr.

Prosecutors: Greed led to murder of Grayson teen for high-end sneakers

When Paul Sampleton Sr. discovered his 14-year-old namesake face down on the floor, not breathing, his arms bound by duct tape, he noticed something was missing: his son’s prized pair of Air Jordan sneakers, stolen from the Grayson High School freshman’s feet after he had been shot three times in the head.

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Atlanta Braves

Wren fixed some things but failed in big picture

Frank Wren is out as the Braves’ general manager, not because he failed to make some nice trades, or struggled to sign good players amid budget constraints, or oversaw a minor league system that produced no talent.

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Lockout silences season

Lockout silences season

The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s 70th anniversary season has been canceled through Nov. 8, the orchestra’s management announced Monday — the victim, ASO executives said, of a contract impasse.

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