Appeal contested in DeKalb special grand jury case

The Georgia Court of Appeals should dismiss an appeal by DeKalb County prosecutors that seeks to prevent lawyers for CEO Burrell Ellis and his former campaign manager from reading a special-purpose grand jury’s report before it is made public, a recently filed motion said.

Lawyers for Kevin Ross, Ellis’ former campaign manager, said the District Attorney’s Office not only failed to follow proper procedure when filing its appeal, but it is not the right time for the court to hear such an appeal.

“In many ways … this appeal is much ado about very little,” said the motion, which was filed Friday.

For weeks now, DeKalb prosecutors and defense attorneys for Ellis and Ross have sparred in court and in legal motions over the outcome of a yearlong probe by a special-purpose grand jury into possible corruption in county water and sewer department contracts.

Late last month, lawyers for Ellis and Ross asked DeKalb Superior Court Judge Mark Anthony Scott, who has been overseeing the grand jury case, to impose sanctions against prosecutors for alleged misconduct. The DA’s office has filed contempt motions against the defense attorneys.

Ellis hired his defense team after his house and office were searched by investigators while he was testifying before the grand jury. Ross, whose residence and office were also searched, has had defense counsel since he successfully fought a subpoena that sought his grand jury testimony.

All the while, the special-purpose grand jury’s report and presentment remains under seal.

The DA’s office is appealing an order by Scott allowing Ellis’ and Ross’ lawyers to read the presentment before it is published. The attorneys have argued that the grand jury exceeded its scope of authority and that prosecutors are illegally using information obtained in the special-purpose investigation, which is civil in nature, in a separate criminal investigation.

The defense attorneys also say they need to read the presentment in case they need to ask for any inappropriate passages to be redacted before the report is published or, if necessary, seek to suppress the presentment in its entirety.