Ellis could stand trial by August

Indicted DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis could face a trial by the end of summer under a request filed Thursday afternoon by the county’s district attorney.

Ellis, who is facing 15 charges of theft, extortion and conspiracy, was scheduled to make his first court appearance Monday in an arraignment, or formal reading of those charges.

But Ellis waived that hearing Thursday, his attorney J. Tom Morgan told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

At the same time, DA Robert James filed a motion asking Superior Court Judge Courtney L. Johnson to schedule Ellis’ trial for August.

“We’ve just put it officially on the record to move forward quickly,” said James’ spokesman Erik Burton. “We stand ready for trial.”

Morgan declined to say if Ellis’ legal team also wants to try the case next month. He referred that question to lead attorney Craig Gillen.

Gillen said only that Ellis’ team would respond to any motions “in a timely manner.”

Things have already moved quickly in the case against Ellis.

He was indicted June 18, prompting a review by a committee of his peers to see if the 14 felony charges would interfere with his job running daily operations in Georgia’s third-largest county.

Gov. Nathan Deal suspended Ellis as CEO last Wednesday, naming Commissioner Lee May as interim head of the county.

Ellis’ team has argued that state law requires a trial to begin within two court terms or Ellis can petition for his job back.

If a judge agrees the two terms began with the June indictment, the trial would need to begin by Aug. 30. If a judge rules the clock starts after arraignment, it could push a trial to the year’s end.

The 17-page indictment lists several witnesses expected to testify against Ellis. He is accused of ordering county staff to compile a list of firms that do work with the county to call for campaign donations, and with threatening companies that declined to give.

A trial is expected to last several days, according to legal watchers. It will be up to Johnson to review her court calendar and schedule when the Ellis trial can begin.

Johnson’s staff attorney and calendar clerk could not be reached for comment Thursday.