Suspended DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis hears an audio recording between himself and DeKalb County Purchasing Director Kevin Walton in court Wednesday. (BRANT SANDERLIN / BSANDERLIN@AJC.COM)

Ellis attorney, prosecution witness exchange snide comments

3:06 p.m. — Jurors in the corruption trial of Burrell Ellis were sent home early Thursday capping an afternoon of snide comments and barbs exchanged between one of the attorneys for the suspended DeKalb County CEO and the star witness for the prosecution.

Throughout the afternoon attorney Craig Gillen and witness Kelvin Walton sharply rebuked each other for not letting them finish their respective thoughts.

Gillen began his cross examination around mid-day Thursday, the third day Walton was on the stand.

Gillen would play tapes prosecutors had played earlier for jurors but this time defense the defense attorney used them to cast Ellis in a better light while trying to besmirch Walton.

Gillen asked Walton if he wore a wire to work every day for prosecutors so he could secretly record Ellis.

“I didn’t go to work every day with a recorder. No,” Walton said.

“On most days?” Gillen asked.

“No. Some days,” Walton said.

2:46 p.m. — Suspended DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis wanted to ensure no one on the vendor list provided for campaign fund-raising had any companies with pending proposals or bids for contracts, according to a recording played in court Thursday afternoon.

When the state was questioning its star witness, Kelvin Walton, the focus was on secretly recorded tapes of Ellis obsessively and aggressively pushing for campaign contributions from vendors. But his attorney’s cross-examination of Walton has centered on recordings in which the CEO was trying to take care not to co-mingle politics with county business.

Ellis, according to testimony, had asked Walton, who is on paid leave as director of the county’s Office of Procurement and Contracts, to put together up-to-date lists of vendors with county business so he could call them for help retiring his debt on his 2012 re-election campaign.

“I don’t want to call anybody while there is an RFP (request for proposal) out or a selection to be made,” Ellis said on a recording played in court.

1:52 p.m. — Prosecution witness conceded that not only did he lie in his first DeKalb County special purpose grand jury appearance but he also lied in the second one, which a defense attorney called his “coming clean session.”

After answering questions from prosecutors in the corruption trial of Burrell Ellis over three days, the suspended DeKalb CEO’s lawyers began cross examining Kelvin Walton, immediately focusing on his credibility.

Walton has admitted that he lied and he agreed to turn on his boss when he was faced with the possibility of being indicted.

Defense attorney Craig Gillen noted that Walton also lied initially in a session before the grand jury in which Walton said he wanted to come clean.

“We’ve got you lying on May 2 (2012) and lying during your coming clean session)” before the grand jury on June 2012, Gillen said.

The lies involved whether he had received gifts or favors, including free landscaping from a company that had a lucrative contract with the county.

Walton told a special purpose grand jury, empanelled to look at corruption within the Department of Watershed Management, more than two years ago that he thought he had paid Champion Tree Service for landscaping on his personal property. But then he also told the special grand jury he avoided phone calls from Paul Champion later because he was worried the businessman might want to blackmail him for having work done that Walton never paid for.

A grand juror pointed out the consistency and that was when Walton corrected himself, he testified.

“They catch you yet in another lie before the grand jury,” Gillen said to Walton, who is on paid leave as head of DeKalb’s Department of Purchasing and Contracts.

Walton and Champion had met in a Wal-Mart parking lot to discuss Champion’s problems with getting DeKalb County to pay him for invoices he had submitted.

Walton has testified that Champion tried to bribe him, but Champion has alleged that Walton was the one seeking the bribe.

Champion has a lawsuit pending against DeKalb County that claims he wasn’t paid more than $880,000 for clearing county land.

After investigators confronted Walton about his lies to the special grand jury, he agreed to wear a wire for prosecutors building their case against Ellis.

1:13 p.m. — Star prosecution witness Kelvin Walton asked vendors to give cash to help suspended DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis’s aide to save her house but he didn’t tell his boss that he was collecting contributions for her.

Walton had testified earlier that Nina Hall was about to lose her house. So he turned to certain vendors and individuals because “I had opened doors for these types of contractors… so that’s why I went to them.

“They knew this wasn’t a bribe. They knew I was helping Ms. Hall,” Walton said.

The money was given in cash, Walton said, because that was the methods the donors preferred.

He also testified that Hall served on the committee that evaluated contracts with the county and some of those contracts may have been held by the companies or individuals who help her.

Walton testified that he didn’t tell Ellis he was soliciting donations for the woman who was the CEO’s administrative assistant.

12:01 p.m. — Suspended DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis’ attorney pounded the state’s star witness about his lies to a special purpose grand jury.

“You decided it would be in the best interest of Kelvin Walton to lie,” attorney Craig Gillen said.

“I did,” Walton said.

Walton was asked by the grand jury about his relationship with a vendor who he had allegedly used to perform services at his home.

“You were asked if you received any special gifts form a vendor?” Gillen asked.

11:51 a.m. — Attorney Craig Gillen’s first question to the star witness against suspended DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis was to challenged his integrity.

“You willfully lied several times, didn’t you?” Gillen asked Kelvin Walton, the county’s chief purchasing officer who is on administrative leave.

“I did,” Walton said.

11:40 a.m.— Defense attorneys for Suspended DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis are preparing to start their cross examination of the prosecution’s star witness, admitted liar Kelvin Walton who is the county’s top purchasing officer.

Attorney Craig Gillen asked the judge about who he could impeach Walton and show his bias. He wants to reference a confrontation by a state polygraph examiner but the judge says he cannot reference the results of that polygraph.

11:21 a.m. — DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis contradicted himself regarding whether he expected vendors to give to his 2012 re-election campaign, the prosecution’s star witness in the ongoing corruption trial said Thursday.

Prosecutor Lawanda Hodges played snippets of recorded conversations between Ellis and Kelvin Walton, the county’s purchasing director, to make the point that Ellis felt vendors with lucrative county contracts should help him pay off his campaign debt.

She played contradicting recorded conversations back-to-back.

“I understand you don’t give something to get something” Ellis said in one recorded conversation with Walton.

Walton said those were examples of how Ellis was like “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.”

In another, Ellis was annoyed that a vendor was asking that payment on a contract be pushed through while they were delaying a campaign contribution.

“You want me to rush yours but you don’t want to rush mine,” Ellis said during a discussion with Walton about a vendor.

11 a.m. — Attorneys representing suspended DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis are becoming increasingly frustrated that prosecutors are giving them no warning of which clips they are planning to play for the jury hearing the public corruption trial.

Craig Gillian complained he spends a good bit of time trying to find places on the copies of transcripts he has as tapes are being played.

The judge said she was have the same struggles but she cannot order prosecutors to play entire tapes rather than snippets.

9:37 a.m. — Jurors were again pushed out of the courtroom because of words used in testimony in the corruption trial of suspended DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis that could have suggested he committed other crimes that are not a part of this case.

This time it was prosecutor Lawanda Hodges’ characterization of the relationship between Ellis and star witness Kelvin Walton, the county’s chief purchasing officer, as one of “co-conspirators.”

Ellis is not charged with conspiracy.

Ellis attorney Craig Gillen, for the second time in two days, asked Judge Courtney Johnson to declare a mistrial, less than an hour into Thursday’s testimony.

Johnson said she would remind the jurors that they are to consider only the crimes she explains at the end of the trial, before they begin deliberating, but she would not declare a mistrial.

One Wednesday testimony was briefly stopped when Walton compared Ellis to a murderer.

9:02 a.m. — More covert recordings of DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis were scheduled to be played during his trial Thursday morning.

The recordings were created by DeKalb Purchasing Director Kelvin Walton as he was working undercover for prosecutors so he could avoid prosecution.

Ellis is battling allegations that he strong-armed county contractors into giving him campaign contributions. He’s accused of threatening businesses unless they donated.

Walton is a key witness for the prosecution, wearing a wire and collecting information on Ellis for months before a grand jury indicted him.

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