Ellis trial: Jury deliberations will continue Wednesday

A jury ended its fourth full day of deliberations in the corruption case against suspended DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis without announcing a decision Tuesday. The six men and six women will resume their discussions Wednesday morning.

Prosecutors say Ellis strong-armed county vendors for contributions to his 2012 re-election campaign and then he lied to a special purpose grand jury when he was asked about his role in county contracting. Ellis has said he didn’t punish contractors for refusing to donate.

Twice jurors came into the courtroom on Tuesday to hear recordings that were played during 11 days of testimony.

In one recording, the jury heard Ellis asking why the county should continue doing business with a contractor that wasn’t returning his campaign phone calls. In another recording, a different contractor told a DeKalb employee that he felt “shivers down my spine” during a campaign solicitation call in which Ellis allegedly said he could work out a problem with a subcontractor.

The jury also asked DeKalb Superior Court Judge Courtney Johnson to explain the law they are supposed to follow as they make their decisions.

The jury met for less than an hour last Wednesday and has spent about six or seven hours on each of the following four days deliberating the nine counts of theft by extortion, conspiracy to commit extortion, bribery and perjury.

If Ellis is convicted, the crimes carry maximum punishments of five years to 20 years in prison, with the bribery charge being the most serious.

Ellis has been suspended with pay since he was indicted two years ago, but if he is acquitted he could immediately resume his duties as chief executive officer of DeKalb.

A key to the case against Ellis was secret recordings made by the then-head of county purchasing and contracting, Kelvin Walton. Walton agreed to wear a wire for the District Attorney’s Office when he was threatened with the possibility that he, too, could be charged with lying to the special grand jury.

This is the second time Ellis has gone to trial on these charges. Johnson declared a mistrial last fall after that jury could not reach a verdict despite 11 days of deliberations.