DeKalb CEO Ellis gears up for retrial

Suspended DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis is preparing for his retrial by seeking a reversal of previous rulings against him and adding a lawyer to his defense team.

Ellis’ retrial is scheduled to begin June 1 after a jury couldn’t reach a unanimous verdict on any of the 13 counts against him following a six-week trial that ended in October.

DeKalb prosecutors have accused Ellis of illegally pressuring county contractors for campaign contributions. Ellis has denied wrongdoing and pleaded not guilty.

Ellis’ lawyers wrote in motions filed earlier this month that Superior Court Judge Courtney Johnson should reconsider her decisions against him.

They want to be able to tell a jury many arguments that were prohibited during his first trial.

His attorneys want to introduce evidence about Ellis’ treatment of vendors not named in the indictment, the authority of the special grand jury investigation that led to charges against him, and his personal and political background.

“Ellis’ primary defense to all of the state’s allegations has been that he did not intentionally commit any offenses,” according to a motion by his attorneys. “Ellis did not intentionally threaten to ‘end’ any person’s or entity’s business with the county or impair any person’s or entity’s ‘business reputation’ with the intention that the person or entity would then contribute to his campaign.”

Ellis has changed the members of his legal team by removing J. Tom Morgan, a former DeKalb district attorney, and his law partner, John Petrey. Ellis hired Kemay Jackson, a criminal defense lawyer based in Snellville.

Ellis is now represented by lead attorney Craig Gillen, Dwight Thomas and Jackson.