Burrell Ellis in custody, sentencing set for Wednesday

DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis was found guilty of attempted extortion and perjury Wednesday, and several deputies immediately escorted him from the courtroom into custody.

A jury was unanimous in convicting Ellis on the four felony charges related to allegations that he strong-armed county contractors into contributing to his 2012 re-election campaign. Ellis was found not guilty on five other charges.

Ellis and his wife didn’t move or show emotion as the jury foreman read the verdicts after deliberating about 27 hours over six days.

Ellis will be sentenced July 8. The maximum sentence for the three perjury counts is 10 years imprisonment, and the attempt to commit theft by extortion count carries a five-year maximum sentence.

The conviction brought an end to Ellis’ political career, where he had reached the pinnacle of leadership in the 700,000-person county in 2008 and then convincingly won a second term four years later.

Ellis, his attorneys and his family didn’t comment. Neither did District Attorney Robert James, who is bound by a gag order until after sentencing.

This was Ellis’ second trial after a jury last year failed to reach an agreement on any of the charges against him.

Much of the case against Ellis depended on secret recordings made by the former head of DeKalb’s purchasing and contracts, Kelvin Walton, who agreed to wear a wire so he would not be charged with lying to a special purpose grand jury when he was asked if he got gifts or services from county vendors.

The extortion count involved accusations that Ellis shook down Power and Energy Services, which serviced generators for the county. Jurors heard a recording in which Ellis solicited contributions from Brandon Cummings, the president of the company.

“If I’ve got to sit down and explain to you why you would want to support this county government … ” Ellis said on the recording. “You obviously have an interest in DeKalb County … I’m not asking you to make a charitable contribution. I’m asking you to make a campaign contribution.”

The three perjury charges dealt with Ellis’ testimony to a special grand jury, when he said under oath that he doesn’t get involved in county contracting.

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