Suspended DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis, watches a video of his prior grand jury testimony, while being cross examined by Dekalb County District Attorney Robert James on Friday. Ellis is fighting charges that he intimidated companies doing business with DeKalb County into giving him campaign contributions. BRANT SANDERLIN / BSANDERLIN@AJC.COM
Photo: Brant Sanderlin
Photo: Brant Sanderlin

DeKalb CEO Ellis finishes testifying

2:12 p.m. — Jurors heard nearly three weeks of testimony in the corruption trial of DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis before the defense rested its case Friday.

Ellis was the final witness, and he had been testifying in his own defense since Wednesday.

The jury will return to court Monday to hear up to two hours of closing arguments from each side, and then they will begin deliberating the case.

Ellis has pleaded not guilty to accusations that he strong-armed county contractors into giving him campaign contributions during his 2012 re-election campaign.

He faces 13 criminal charges, including bribery, theft, extortion and perjury.

2:07 p.m. — DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis completes testifying in his own defense after three days in court.

The defense rests its case.

Up next: closing arguments on Monday.

12:33 p.m. — While there haven’t been any significant revelations from DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis’ testimony Friday, he and District Attorney Robert James have sought to establish their views of the facts.

Ellis said he didn’t threaten anyone or take action against vendors’ contracts.

James’ questions have suggested that Ellis was deeply involved in contracting and worked against companies that didn’t contribute to him.

Jurors will have to decide who to believe.

The trial paused for a lunch break, and Ellis will continue answering questions at 1:30 p.m.

12:03 p.m. — District Attorney Robert James, through his questioning of DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis, sought to establish that Ellis acted on his own when calling contractors for campaign donations.

Ellis said the government’s key witness, DeKalb Purchasing Director Kelvin Walton, didn’t participate in his phone calls.

James wrote in red marker on a poster board, “9 of 13 counts no Kelvin Walton.”

James then concluded his cross-examination of Ellis. Questioning of Ellis continued from his defense attorney, Craig Gillen.

11:19 a.m. — DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis is answering a series of questions about his phone calls to Power and Energy Services, a county contractor that felt threatened by his solicitations for campaign contributions.

Ellis is acknowledging that he made the phone calls and that he made them on his own, but he’s not admitting any wrongdoing.

He’s accused of shaking down county contractors for donations during his 2012 re-election campaign.

10:47 a.m. — District Attorney Robert James is trying to pin down DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis about his denial that he doesn’t get involved in who gets work from the county.

James: Were you involved in the decision (to stop giving work to Power and Energy Services)?

Ellis: We had a discussion about it, yes. The decision to not give them work, I was not involved with. I gave an approval, I gave an OK to it.

James: So an approval is not an involvement?

Ellis: (DeKalb Purchasing Director Kelvin Walton) told me about it, I said OK.

10:31 a.m. — During his questioning of DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis, District Attorney Robert James is focusing on Ellis’ statement to a special grand jury that he didn’t interfere with contracting.

Ellis told a special grand jury on Jan. 7, 2013, that “I don’t get involved in who gets work and who doesn’t get work.”

Through James’ questioning, he’s trying to show that Ellis wasn’t truthful when making that statement.

Ellis is accused of pulling county work from vendors who didn’t contribute to his political campaign.

10:21 a.m. — District Attorney Robert James is having DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis read a transcript of his sworn testimony, in which he denied canceling county contracts because vendors wouldn’t contribute to his political campaign.

Ellis’ denials are the basis of three counts of perjury that he has pleaded not guilty to.

9:56 a.m. — The late juror has arrived and DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis is back on the witness stand.

9:34 a.m. — While waiting for a late juror to arrive, Superior Court Judge Courtney Johnson ruled against a request from prosecutors to prevent religious references during closing arguments.

Johnson said she didn’t have the authority to restrict Biblical references.

Closing arguments could take place Monday, and then the jury would begin deliberating whether to find DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis guilty or not guilty.

9:25 a.m. — A juror is running late. Testimony in the trial won’t begin until at least 9:45 a.m.

9:13 a.m. — Court comes to order and DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis is about to resume his place on the witness stand.

Behind the witness stand is the sign where District Attorney Robert James wrote some of Ellis’ words in red marker for the jury to see Thursday:

“People do not have to call me back!”

“Vendors knew why calling!”


James then flipped the page and wrote in black, “Quid pro quo,” which means “something for something” in Latin.

James was trying to make the point that unless contractors donated to Ellis, they believed they could lose their business with the county government.

9 a.m. — Round 2 in the battle between DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis and District Attorney Robert James begins when Ellis’ trial resumes Friday morning.

Ellis, taking the stand in his own defense, will come under renewed questioning from James following a day of pointed inquiry in court Thursday.

Ellis and James have been at odds for more than two years, since James launched his corruption investigation.

The investigation led to criminal charges against Ellis alleging that he shook down county contractors for campaign contributions.

Ellis is one of the last witnesses in his three-week trial, and jurors could hear closing arguments on Monday.

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